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Assembled by David Magee 


3 1197 22888 8670 






YEARS 1860-6$ 




Sff. Chap. XXII. 


YEAES 1860-69 



v\\ . 


Toil and pleasure, in their natures opposite, are yet linked together in a kind 
of necessary connection. — Livv. 



All rights arc reserved. 



In the year 1860, shortly before leaving England for a long conti- 
nental tour, a certain eminent London publisher requested me to 
make for him some sketches of the great Alpine peaks. At this 
time I had only a literary acquaintance with mountaineering, and 
had even not seen — much less set foot upon — a mountain. Amongst 
the peaks which were upon my list was Mont Pelvoux, in Dau- 
phine. The sketches that were required of it were to celebrate the 
triumph of some Englishmen who intended to make its ascent. 
They came — they saw — but they did not conquer. By a mere 
chance I fell in with a very agreeable Frenchman who accompanied 
this party, and was pressed by him to return to the assault. In 
1861 we did so, with my friend Macdonald — and we conquered. 
This was the origin of my scrambles amongst the Alps. 

The ascent of Mont Pelvoux (including the disagreeables) was a 
very delightful scramble. The mountain air did not act as an 
emetic ; the sky did not look black, instead of blue ; nor did I feel 
tempted to throw myself over precipices. I hastened to enlarge 
my experience, and went to the Matterhorn. I was urged towards 
Mont Pelvoux by those mysterious impulses which cause men to 
peer into the unknown. Not only was this mountain reputed to be 
the highest in Prance, and on that account was worthy of attention, 
but it was the dominating point of a most picturesque district of 
the highest interest, which, to this day, remains almost unexplored ! 
The Matterhorn attracted • me simply by its grandeur. It was con- 
sidered to be the most thoroughly inaccessible of all mountains, 
even by those who ought to have known better. Stimulated to 
make fresh exertions by one repulse after another, I returned, year 



after year, as I had opportunity, more and more determined to find 
a way up it, or to prove it to be really inaccessible. 

A considerable portion of this volume is occupied by the his- 
tory of these attacks on the Matterhorn, and the other excursions 
that are described have all some connection, more or less remote, 
with that mountain or with Mont Pelvoux. All are new excur- 
sions (that is, excursions made for the first time), unless the con- 
trary is pointed out. Some have been passed over very briefly, and 
entire ascents or descents have been disposed of in a single line. 
If they had been worked out at full length, three volumes, instead 
of one, would have been required. Generally speaking, the salient 
points alone have been dwelt upon, and the rest has been left to 
the imagination. This treatment has spared the reader from much 
useless repetition. 

In endeavouring to make the book of some use to those who 
may wish to go mountain-scrambling, whether in the Alps or else- 
where, undue prominence, perhaps, has been given to our mistakes 
and failures ; and it will doubtless be pointed out that our practice 
must have been bad if the principles which are laid down are sound, 
or that the principles must be unsound if the practice was good. It 
is maintained in an early chapter that the positive, or unavoidable, 
dangers of mountaineering are very small, yet from subsequent 
pages it can be shown that very considerable risks were run. The 
reason is obvious — we were not immaculate. Our blunders are not 
held up to be admired, or to be imitated, but to be avoided. 

These scrambles amongst the Alps were holiday excursions, 
and as such they should be judged. They are spoken of as sport, 
and nothing more. The pleasure that they gave me cannot, I fear, 
be transferred to others. The ablest pens have failed, and must 
always fail, to give a true idea of the grandeur of the Alps. The 
most minute descriptions of the greatest writers do nothing more 
than convey impressions that are entirely erroneous — the reader 
conjures up visions, it may be magnificent ones, but they are infi- 
nitely inferior to the reality. I have dealt sparingly in descrip- 


tions, and have employed illustrations freely, in the hope that the 
pencil may perhaps succeed where the pen must inevitably have 

The preparation of the illustrations has occupied a large part 
of my time during the last six years. With the exception of the 
views upon pp. 21, 23, and 33, the whole of the illustrations have 
been engraved expressly for the book, and, unless it is otherwise 
specified, all are from my own sketches. About fifty have been 
drawn on the wood by Mr. James Mahoney, and I am much in- 
debted to that artist for the care and fidelity with which he has 
followed my slight memoranda, and for the spirit that he has put 
into his admirable designs. Most of his drawings will be identified 
by his monogram. Twenty of the remainder are the work of Mr. 
Cyrus Johnston, and out of these I would draw especial attention 
to the view of the Matterhorn facing p. 84, the striated rock upon 
p. 141, and the bits from the Mer de Glace upon pp. 355-6. The 
illustrations have been introduced as illustrations, and very rarely 
for ornamental purposes. We have subordinated everything in 
them to accuracy, and it is only fair to the artists who have 
honoured me by their assistance to say that many of their designs 
would have ranked higher as works of art if they had been subjected 
to fewer restrictions. Most of the subjects have required very fine 
and finished engraving, and this, in its turn, has compelled the use 
of paper of unexceptionable quality. The whole of the paper in the 
book has been made expressly for it by Messrs. Dickinson, who 
assure me that it is the finest paper they have ever produced — it 
is certainly the most perfectly manufactured paper that has come 
under my notice. Mr. Clark's printing will speak for itself. 

It is now my pleasant duty to acknowledge assistance that has 
been rendered, directly or indirectly, by friends and strangers, at 
home or abroad. First of all, my thanks are due to my com- 
panions for having placed their journals and sketches freely at my 
disposal. I am particularly obliged to Mr. J. Longridge, to Mr. 
T. F. Mitchell, and to Mr. W. Cutbill, for the facilities that they 

viii PREFACE. 

granted me when examining the Fell railway in 1869. From the 
Eev. T. G. Bonney (of St. John's Coll., Cambridge), and Mr. Kob. H. 
Scott, F.E.S., I have received many friendly hints and much 
valued criticism ; and aid, in a variety of ways, from Mr. Budden, 
Prof. Gastaldi and Sig. Giordano, in Italy ; from M. Emile 
Templier and the Marechal Canrobert, in France ; and from Mr. 
Gosset of Berne. I am indebted to Mr. William Longman for 
being allowed to reproduce the Ascent of Mont Pelvoux "" and 
three of its accompanying illustrations, and to the Messrs. Long- 
man for the use of a portion of their map of the Western Alps ; to 
the English Alpine Club for the use of a part of Mr. Eeilly's map 
of the Valpellitie and Yal Tournanche ; and especially to the 
Federal Council of Switzerland for having granted the unusual 
favour of a transfer from two of the valuable plates of the Dufour 
map. The two remaining maps are original. That of Mont Blanc 
is based upon the Government maps of France and Switzerland, 
and the survey of Mr. Eeilly ; and that of the Matterhorn and its 
glaciers (excluding some corrections which I have taken the liberty 
of making) is an enlargement of a portion of the Dufour map. 

Haslemere, May 1871. 

* From Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers, 2d series. With this exception, almost the 
whole of the text is now published for the first time. 




COL DE LAUTARET ....... Pages 1-13 




PILLARS — ARRIVE AT BRIANCON . . . . . .14-45 
















— AN ENTERPRISING INNKEEPER ..... Pages 131-168 







IS WON — THE VALLON DES ETANCONS * . . . . . 179-200 





OF DAUPHIN^ ........ 222-231 





map ........ Pages 232-252 



THE CLUB-ROOM OF ZERMATT ...... 253-262 
















jorasses — we start an avalanche .... Pages 295-345 





croz leaves us — christian almer— sunset on the mer de glace — structure 
of glaciers — the " veined structure" — origin of veins in glaciers — 
ascent of the aiguille — advice to mountain walkers — view from the 
summit — storms come on — a worthy porter — the noble attitude of 
chamounix ........ 353-365 


the col du geant — the glacier de talefre — easy way from chamounix 
to cormayeur — glissading — passes over the main chain of mont 
blanc .... ..... 366-369 








RAMA ........ Pages 384-394 



END ......... 395-408 













The Drawings were made on the Wood by 

H. J. Boot, C. Johnson, J. Mahoney, J. W. North, P. Skelton, W. G. Smith, and C. J. Staniland; 

and were Engraved by J. W. and Edward Whymper. 

From Photographs. 




* 3. 

To face page 35 

















Fog-bow, seen from the Matterhorn on July 14, 1865. Frontispiece 

Mont Pelvoux and the Alefroide, from near Mont 

The Mont Cenis Road and the Fell Railway, ox the 
Italian side . 

Outlines of the Matterhorn from the north-east and 
from the Summit of the Theodule Pass (to show 
Ridges, and Points attained on the different 
attempts to ascend the mountain) .... 

The Matterhorn, from near the Summit of the Theo- 
dule Pass . 

' The Chimney ' 

" In attempting to pass the corner I slipped and feli 

A Cannonade on the Matterhorn (1862) 

The Crags of the Matterhorn, during the Storm, 
Midnight, Aug. 10, 1863 

Descending Western Arete of the Pointe des Ecrins 

" We saw a toe — it seemed to belong to Moore ; w 
saw Reynaud a flying body " 

The Summit of the Homing Pass in 1864 

The Club-Room of Zermatt in 1864 

The Bergschrund on the Dent Blanche in 1865 

The Matterhorn from the Riffelberg . 

Sections of the Matterhorn .... 

The Gkandes Jorasses from the Val Ferret 

The Summit of the Col Dolent .... 







19. Geological Section of the Matterhorn . . . To face page 425 

20. Natural Pinnacles (formed out of an old Moraine) 

in the Valley of the Durance .... ,, 431 

21 . Vertical Section of the Snow on the Col de Valpelline, 

August 1866 (Folding Plate) . .At the end of the Volume. 


1. Beachy Head . 

2. The Devil of Notre Dame 
1 3. Mules 

* 4. A CiraiS in Difficulties 
r 5. Which is the Brute ? 

6. At the St. Bernard 

* 7. "Garibaldi !" 
1 8. Briancon 

9. Mont Pelvoux from above La Bessie 

10. In the Val d'Alefred .... 

11. The Grand Pelvoux de Val Louise 

12. Buttresses of Mont Pelvoux 

13. Portrait of R. J. S. Macdonald 

14. Outline to show Route up Mont Pelvoux 

15. The Blanket Bag 

16. Natural Pillar near Molines 

17. Crossing Mont Cenis .... 

18. The Little Postilion .... 

19. The Centre Rail on a Curve 

20. Section of the Fell Railway 

21. The Covered "Ways of the Fell Railway 

22. The Centre Rail Break 

23. Tubes Conveying the Compressed Air to the Mont Cenis Tunn 

and Joints of the Same .... 

24. Transverse Section of the Mont Cenis Tunnel 

25. Cross Section of the Advanced Gallery 

26. Longitudinal Section of the End of the Advanced Gallery 

27. Portrait of J. J. Bennen 

28. Portrait of Jean-Antoine Carrel .... 

29. The Col du Lion : looking towards the Tete du Lion 

30. Diagram to show manner of fastening Tent-poles 

31. Alpine Tent 

32. Climbing Claw 

33. Rope and Ring 

34. At (Giomeinm 

















35. The Matterhorn from Breil 

** 36. " But what is this ? " . . 

37. An Arch of the Aqueduct in the Val Tournanche 

* 38. Water-worn Rocks in the Gorge below the Gorner Glacier 

39. Striatioms produced by Glacier-action . 

40. Sections of Roches Moutonnees and Roches Nivelees 

41. Diagram of Weathered Bock 

** 42. "Carrel lowered me down" 

* 43. Portrait of Monsieur Favre 

* 44. Crossing the Channel 

* 45. Portrait of Michel- Auguste Croz . . 

46. Plan to show Route . 

47. The Aiguilles d'Arve from above Chalets of Rieu Blanc . 

* 48. Portrait of Melchior Anderegg ....... 

49. Map of the Breche de la Meije, etc 

50. Diagram to show Angle of Summit of Meije, as seen from La Gray 

* 51. The Vallon des Etancoxs 


52. Map of the Central Dauphin^ Alps 

53. The Pointe des Ecrins from the Col du Galibier 

54. Outline to show Route up Pointe des Ecrtns 

55. Fragment from the Summit of the Pointe des Ecrins 
** 56. A Night with Croz 
** 57. A Snow Couloir .... 
** 58. Portraits of Mr. Reilly on a wet day 

59. Our Camp on Mont Sue . 

60. Ice- Avalanche on the Moming Pass 

61. Facsimile of a Letter from Croz . 

62. Part of the Southern Ridge of the Grand Cornier . 

63. Part of the Northern Ridge of the Grand Cornier . 

* 64. Portrait of Leslie Stephen . . . . . . 

* 65. Portrait of T. S. Kennedy 

66. Diagrams to show Dip of Strata on the Matterhorn . 

* 67. My Tent-bearer — The Hunchback 

* 68. The Bouquetin 

69. A Cretin of Aosta . 

70. Imaginary Section of a Glacier 

71. Quartz-vein .... 

72. My Ice-axe .... 

73. Kennedy Ice-axe 

74. Another form of Ice-axe 

75. Crampon 

xv n 


e 197 



























Portrait of Christian Almer 

On the Mer de Glace 

Ice-Pinnacles on the Mer de Glace 

Western Side of the Col de Talefre 

Glissading ..... 

The Wrong Way to use a Rope on Glacier . 

The Right Way to use a Rope on Glacier . 

"Croz! Croz ! ! Come here " 

The Summit of the Matterhorn 

The Actual Summit of the Matterhorn in 1865 

Rope broken on the Matterhorn . 

Portrait of Monsieur Seiler . 

Manilla Rope broken on the Matterhorn . 

The 'Second' Rope broken on the Matterhorn 

The End 

















To be placed at the end of the Volume. 

1. General Route Map. 

2. The Valley of Zermatt, and the Central Pennine Alps. 

3. The Valpelline, the Valtournanche, and the Central Pennine Alps. 

4. The Chain of Mont Blanc. 

5. The Matterhorn and its Glaciers (In Colours). 

The body of the Work is printed by R. Clark, Edinburgh ; the separate Plates 
have been printed by the Author. 


Page 20, line from top, " Col de Lantaret" to read " Col de Lautaret." 
,, 29, „ 13-15 ,, " Pie des Archies" ,, " Pic de Arcines." 
,, 45, note t "See Chap. 23" ,, " See Appendix." 

,, 147, line 1 from top, " early and coarse" ,, " early, or a coarse." 
,, 215, note, "referred to in Chapter xx." ,, " referred to in Chapter xxi. 




On the 23d of July 1860, I started for my first tour in the Alps. 
As we steamed out into the Channel, Beachy Head came into view, 
and recalled a scramble of many years ago. With the impudence 
of ignorance, my brother* and I, schoolboys both, had tried to scale 
that great chalk cliff. Not the head itself — where sea-birds circle, 
and where the flints are ranged so orderly in parallel lines — but at 
a place more to the east, where the pinnacle called the Devil's 
Chimney had fallen down. Since that time we have been often in 
dangers of different kinds, but never have we more nearly broken 
our necks than upon that occasion. 

In Paris I made two ascents. The first to the seventh floor of 

The author of Travels in Alaska. 



a house in the Quartier Latin — to an artist friend, who was engaged, 
at the moment of my entry, in combat with a little Jew. He 
hurled him with great good-will, and with considerable force, into 
some of his crockery, and then recommended me to go up the 
towers of Notre Dame. Half-an-hour later I stood on the parapet 
of the great west front, by the side of the leering fiend which for 
centuries has looked down upon the great city. It looked over the 
Hotel Dieu to a small and common- 
place building, around which there was 
always a moving crowd. To that build- 
ing I descended. It was filled with 
chattering women and eager children, 
who were struggling to get a good 


sight of three corpses, which were ex- 
posed to view. It was the Morgue. 
I quitted the place disgusted, and 
overheard two women discussing the 
spectacle. One of them concluded with 

" But that it is droll;" the other answered approvingly, " But that it 
is droll," and the Devil of Notre Dame, looking down upon them,* 
seemed to say, " Yes, your climax— the cancan, your end — not 
uncommonly that building ; it is droll, but that it is droll." 

I passed on to Switzerland ; saw the sunlight lingering on the 
giants of the Oberland ; heard the echoes from the cow-horns in the 
Lanterbrunnen valley and the avalanches rattling off the Jungfrau ; 
and then crossed the Gemmi into the Yalais, resting for a time by 
the beautiful Oeschinen See, and getting a forcible illustration of 
glacier-motion in a neighbouring valley — the Gasteren Thai. The 
upper end of this valley is crowned by the Tschingel glacier, which, 
as it descends, passes over an abrupt cliff that is in the centre of its 
course. On each side the continuity of the glacier is maintained, 
but in the centre it is cleft in twain by the cliff. Lower down it is 
consolidated again. I scrambled on to this lower portion, advanced 

The position of the Morgue has been changed since 1860. 



towards the cliff, and then stopped to admire the contrast of the 
brilliant pinnacles of ice with the blue sky. Without a warning, a 
huge slice of the glacier broke away, and fell over the cliff on to 
the lower portion with a thundering crash. Fragments rolled 
beyond me ; although, fortunately, not in my direction. I fled, and 
did not stop until off the glacier ; but before it was quitted learned 
another lesson in glacial matters : the terminal moraine, which 
seemed to be a solid mound, broke away underneath me, and 
showed that it was only a superficial covering resting on a slope 
of glassy ice. 

On the steep path over the Gemmi there were opportunities 
for observing the manners and customs of the Swiss mule. It is 

not perhaps in revenge for gene- 
rations of ill-treatment that the 
mule grinds one's legs against 
fences and stone walls, and pre- 
tends to stumble in awkward 
places, particularly when coming 
round corners and on the brinks 
of precipices ; but their evil habit 
of walking on the outside edges of 
paths (even in the most unguarded 
positions) is one that is distinctly 
the result of association with man. 
The transport of wood from the 
mountains into the valleys occu- 
pies most of the mules during a 
considerable portion of the year; 
the faggots into which the wood 
is made up project some distance on each side, and it is said that 
they walk intuitively to the outside of paths having rocks on the 
other side to avoid the collisions which would otherwise occur. 
When they carry tourists they behave in a similar manner ; and, 
no doubt, when the good time for mules arrives, and they no longer 


carry burdens, they will still continue, by natural selection, to do 
the same. This habit frequently gives rise to scenes ; two mules 
meet ; each wishes to pass on the outside, and neither will give way. 
It requires considerable persuasion, through the medium of the 
tail, before such difficulties are arranged. 

I visited the baths of Leuk, and saw the queer assemblage of 
men, women, and children, attired in bathing-gowns, chatting, 
drinking, and playing at chess in the water. The company did 
not seem to be perfectly sure whether it was decorous in such a 
situation and in such attire for elderly men to chase young females 
from one corner to another, but it was unanimous in howling at 
the advent of a stranger who remained covered, and literally yelled 
when I departed without exhibiting my sketch. 

I trudged up the Ehone valley, and turned aside at Visp to go 
up the Visp Thai, where one would expect to see greater traces of 
glacial action, if a glacier formerly filled it, as one is said to have 

I was bound for the valley of Saas, and my work took me high 
up the Alps on either side ; far beyond limit of trees and the tracks 
of tourists. The view from the slopes of the Wiessmies, on the 
eastern side of the valley, 5000 or 6000 feet above the village 
of Saas, is perhaps the finest of its kind in the Alps. The full 
height of the three-peaked Mischabel (the highest mountain in 
Switzerland) is seen at one glance; 11,000 feet of dense forests, 
green alps, pinnacles of rock, and glittering glaciers. The peaks 
seemed to me then to be hopelessly inaccessible from this direction. 

I descended the valley to the village of Stalden, and then went 
up the Visp Thai to Zermatt, and stopped there several days. 
Numerous traces of the formidable earthquake-shocks of five years 
before still remained, particularly at St. Nicholas, where the in- 
habitants had been terrified bevond measure at the destruction of 

* And to have supplied from high up the valley of Saas " the well-known blocks of 
gabbro, which arc recognised so extensively over the plains of Switzerland." J. I). 
Forbes, Toiir of Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa, p. 295. 


their churches and houses. At this place, as well as at Visp, a 
large part of the population was obliged to live under canvas for 
several months. It is remarkable that there was hardly a life lost 
on this occasion, although there were about fifty shocks, some of 
which were very severe. 

At Zermatt I wandered in many directions, but the weather 
was bad, and my work was much retarded. One day, after spend- 
ing a long time in attempts to sketch near the Hornli, and in futile 
endeavours to seize the forms of the peaks as they for a few seconds 
peered out from above the dense banks of woolly clouds, I deter- 
mined not to return to Zermatt by the usual path, but to cross the 
Gorner glacier to the Eiffel hotel. After a rapid scramble over the 
polished rocks and snowbeds which skirt the base of the Theodule 
glacier, and wading through some of the streams which flow from it, 
at that time much swollen by the late rains, the first difficulty was 
arrived at, in the shape of a precipice about three hundred feet 
high. It seemed that there would be no difficulty in crossing the 
glacier if the cliff could be descended ; but higher up, and lower 
down, the ice appeared, to my inexperienced eyes, to be impassable 
for a single person. The general contour of the cliff was nearly 
perpendicular, but it was a good deal broken up, and there was little 
difficulty in descending by zigzagging from one mass to another. 
At length there was a long slab, nearly smooth, fixed at an angle of 
about forty degrees between two wall-sided pieces of rock ; nothing, 
except the glacier, could be seen below. It was an awkward place, 
but being doubtful if return were possible, as I had been dropping 
from one ledge to another, passed it at length by lying across the 
slab, putting the shoulder stiffly against one side, and the feet 
against the other, and gradually wriggling down, by first moving 
the legs and then the back. When the bottom of the slab was 
gained a friendly crack was seen, into which the point of the 
baton could be stuck, and I dropped down to the next piece. It 
took a long time coming down that little bit of cliff, and for a few 
seconds it was satisfactory to see the ice close at hand. In another 


moment a second difficulty presented itself. The glacier swept 
round an angle of the cliff, and as the ice was not of the nature 
of treacle or thin putty, it kept away from the little bay, on the 
edge of which I stood. We were not widely separated, but the edge 
of the ice was higher than the opposite edge of rock ; and worse, the 
rock was covered with loose earth and stones which had fallen from 
above. All along the side of the cliff, as far as could be seen in both 
directions, the ice did not touch it, but there was this marginal 
crevasse, seven feet wide, and of unknown depth. 

All this was seen at a glance, and almost at once I concluded 
that I could not jump the crevasse, and began to try along the cliff 
lower down ; but without success, for the ice rose higher and higher, 
until at last further progress was stopped by the cliffs becoming 
perfectly smooth. With an axe it would have been possible to cut 
up the side of the ice ; without one I saw there was no alternative 
but to return and face the jump. 

It was getting towards evening, and the solemn stillness of the 
High Alps was broken only by the sound of rushing water or of 
falling rocks. If the jump should be successful, — well ; if not, I fell 
into that horrible chasm, to be frozen in, or drowned in that gurg- 
ling, rushing water. Everything depended on that jump. Again 1 
asked myself, " Can it be done ? " It must be. So, finding my stick was 
useless, I threw it and the sketch-book to the ice, and first retreat- 
ing as far as possible, ran forward with all my might, took the leap, 
barely reached the other side, and fell awkwardly on my knees.* 
Almost at the same moment a shower of stones fell on the spot 
from which I had jumped. 

The glacier was crossed without further trouble, but the Eiffel,t 

* This would of course have been nothing to a practised gymnast in a room. The 
difficulty lay chiefly in jumping from bad footing on to worse. The incident would 
not have occurred if the cliffs had been descended a little more to the east. 

+ The Riffel hotel (the starting-point for the ascent of Monte Rosa), a deservedly 
popular inn, belonging to Monsieur Seiler, the proprietor of the hotels at Zermatt, is 
situate at a height of 3100 feet above that village (8400 above the sea), and commands 
a superb panoramic view. 


which was then a very small building, was crammed with tourists, 
and could not take me in. As the way down was unknown to me, 
some of the people obligingly suggested getting a man at the chalets, 
otherwise the path would be certainly lost in the forest. On arriv- 
ing at the chalets no man could be found, and the lights of Zermatt, 
shining through the trees, seemed to say, " Never mind a guide, but 
come along down ; I'll show you the way ;" so off I went through 
the forest, going straight towards them. The path was lost in a 
moment, and was never recovered ; I was tripped up by pine-roots, 
tumbled over rhododendron bushes, fell over rocks. The night 
was pitch dark, and after a time the lights of Zermatt became 
obscure, or went out altogether. By a series of slides, or falls, or 
evolutions more or less disagreeable, the descent through the forest 
was at length accomplished ; but torrents of formidable character 
had still to be passed before one could arrive at Zermatt. I felt 
my way about for hours, almost hopelessly ; by an exhaustive pro- 
cess at last discovering a bridge, and about midnight, covered with 
dirt and scratches, re-entered the inn which I had quitted in the 

Others besides tourists got into difficulties. A day or two after- 
wards, when on the way to my old station, 
near the Hornli, I met a stout cure who 
had essayed to cross the Theodule pass. 
His strength or his wind had failed, and 
he was being carried down, a helpless 
bundle and a ridiculous spectacle, on the 
back of a lanky guide, while the peasants 
stood by with folded hands, their reverence 
for the church almost overcome by their 
sense of the ludicrous. 
I descended the valley, diverging from the path at Kanda to 
mount the slopes of the Dom,* in order to see the Weisshorn face 
to face. The latter mountain is the noblest in Switzerland, and 

* The highest of the Mischabelhorner. 



from this direction it looks especially magnificent. On its north 
there is a large snowy plateau that feeds the glacier of which a 
portion is seen from Eanda, and which on more than one occasion 
has destroyed that village. From the direction of the Dom — 
that is, immediately opposite, this Bies glacier* seems to descend 
nearly vertically ; it does not do so, although it is very steep. 
Its size is much less than formerly, and the lower portion, now 
divided into three tails, clings in a strange, weird-like manner to 
the cliffs, to which it seems scarcely possible that it can remain 

Unwillingly I parted from the sight of this glorious mountain, 
and went down to Yisp. 
A party of English tour- 
ists had passed up the 
valley a short time be- 
fore with a mule. The 
party numbered nine — 
eight young women and 
a governess. The mule 
carried their luggage, and 
was ridden by each in 
turn. The peasants — 
themselves not unaccus- 
tomed to overload their 
beasts — were struck with 
astonishment at the un- 
wonted sight, and made 

comments, more free than welcome to English ears, on the non- 
chalance with which young miss sat, calm and collected, on the 
miserable beast, while it was struggling under her weight, com- 
bined with that of the luggage. The story was often repeated ; 
and it tends to sustain some of the hard things which have been 

* Ball's Jfyrine Guide speaks of this incorrectly as the small Bies glacier. It is 
about half-a-mile wide, 



said of late about young ladies from the ages of twelve or fourteen 
to eighteen. 

Arriving once more in the Rhone Valley, I proceeded to 
Viesch, and from thence ascended the Eggischorn ; on which 
unpleasant eminence I lost my way in a fog, and my temper 
shortly afterwards. Then, after crossing the Grimsel in a severe 
thunderstorm, passed on to Brienz, Interlachen, and Bern ; and 
thence to Fribourg and Morat, Neuchatel, Martigny, and the St. 
Bernard. The massive walls of the convent were a welcome sight 
as I waded through the snow-beds near the summit of the pass, 

and pleasant also was the courteous saluta- 
tion of the brother who bade me enter. He 
wondered at the weight of my knapsack, and 
I at the hardness of their bread. The saying 
that the monks make the toast in the winter 
that they give to tourists in the following- 
season is not founded on truth ; the winter 
is their most busy time of the year. But it 
is true they have exercised so much hospi- 
tality, that at times they have not possessed 
the means to furnish the fuel for heating their 
chapel in the winter* 
Instead of descending to Aosta, I turned aside into the Val 
Pelline, in order to obtain views of the Dent d'Erin. The night 
had come on before Biona was gained, and I had to knock long 
and loud upon the door of the cure's house before it was opened. 
An old woman, with querulous voice, and with a large goitre, 
answered the summons, and demanded rather sharply what was 
wanted ; but became pacific — almost good-natured — when a five- 
franc piece was held in her face, and she heard that lodging and 
supper were requested in exchange. 

* The temperature at the St. Bernard in the winter is frequently 40° Fahr. below- 
freezing point. January is their coldest month. See Dollfus-Ausset's Materiaux 
2>our V etude des Glaciers, vols. vi. and vii. 



My directions asserted that a passage existed from Prerayen, at 
the head of this valley, to Breuil,* in the Val Tournanche, and the 
old woman, now convinced of my respectability, busied herself to 
find a guide. Presently she introduced a native, picturesquely 
attired in high-peaked hat, braided jacket, scarlet waistcoat, and 
indigo pantaloons, who agreed to take me to the village of Val 
Tournanche. We set off early on the next morning, and got to the 
summit of the pass without difficulty. It gave me my first experi- 
ence of considerable slopes of hard steep snow, and, like all begin- 
ners, I endeavoured to prop myself up with my stick, and kept it 
outside, instead of holding it between myself and the slope, and 
leaning upon it, as should have been done. The man enlightened 
me ; but he had, properly, a very small opinion of his employer, and 
it is probably on that account that, a few minutes after we had 
passed the summit, he said he would not go any further and would 
return to Biona. All argument was useless ; he stood still, and to 
everything that was said answered nothing but that he would go 
back. Being rather nervous about descending some long snow- 
slopes, which still intervened between us and the head of the val- 
ley, I offered more pay, and he went on a little way. Presently 
there were some cliffs down which we had to scramble. He called 
to me to stop, then shouted that he would go back, and beckoned 
to me to come up. On the contrary, I waited for him to come 
down ; but instead of doing so, in a second or two he turned round, 
clambered deliberately up the cliff, and vanished. I supposed it 
was only a ruse to extort offers of more money, and waited for half- 
an-hour, but lie did not appear again. This was rather embarrassing, 
for he carried off my knapsack. The choice of action lay between 
chasing him and going on to Breuil, risking the loss of my knap- 
sack. I chose the latter course, and got to Breuil the same even- 
ing. The landlord of the inn, suspicious of a person entirely 
innocent of luggage, was doubtful if he could admit me, and 
eventually thrust me into a kind of loft, which was already oc- 

* There was not a pass between Prerayen and Brenil. See note to chap. vi. 


cupied by guides and by bay. In later years we became good 
friends, and be did not hesitate to give credit and even to advance 
considerable sums. 

My sketches from Breuil were made under difficulties ; my 
materials had been carried off — nothing better than line sugar- 
paper could be obtained, and the pencils seemed to contain more 
silica than plumbago. However, they were made, and the pass* 
was again crossed, this time alone. By the following evening the 
old woman of Biona again produced the faithless guide. The 
knapsack was recovered after the lapse of several hours, and then 
I poured forth all the terms of abuse and reproach of which I was 
master. The man smiled when called a liar, and shrugged his 
shoulders when referred to as a thief, but drew his knife when 
spoken of as a pig. 

The following night was spent at Cormayeur, and the day after 
I crossed the Col Ferrex to Orsieres, and on the next the Tete 
Noir to Chamounix. The Emperor Napoleon arrived the same 
day, and access to the Mer de Glace was refused to tourists ; but, 
by scrambling along the Plan des Aiguilles, I managed to outwit 
the guards, and to arrive at the Montanvert as the Imperial party 
was leaving : the same afternoon failing to get to the Jardin, but 
very nearly succeeding in breaking a leg by dislodging great rocks 
on the moraine of the glacier. 

From Chamounix I went to Geneva, and thence by the Mont 
Cenis to Turin and to the Vaudois valleys. A long and weary day 
had ended when Paesana was reached. The inn was full, and I 
was tired, and about to go to bed, when some village stragglers 
entered and began to sing. They sang to Garibaldi ! The tenor, 
a ragged fellow, whose clothes were not worth a shilling, took the 
lead with wonderful expression and feeling. The others kept their 

This pass is called usually the Va Cornere. It is also known as the Gra 
Cornere ; which is, I believe, patois for Grand Cornier. It is mentioned in the first 
volume of the second series of Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers, and in chapters six and 
twenty of this volume. 




places, and sang in admirable time. For hours I sat enchanted ; 
and, long after I retired, the sound of their melody could be 
heard, relieved at times by the treble of the girl who belonged to 
the inn. 


The next morning I passed the little lakes, which are the 
sources of the Po, on my way into France. The weather was 
stormy, and misinterpreting the patois of some natives — who in 
reality pointed out the right way — I missed the track, and found 
myself under the cliffs of Monte Viso. A gap that was occa- 
sionally seen, in the ridge connecting it with the mountains to the 
east, tempted me up ; and, after a battle with a snow-slope of 
excessive steepness, I reached the summit. The scene was extra- 
ordinary, and, in my experience, unique. To the north there was 
not a particle of mist, and the violent wind coming from that 
direction blew one back staggering. But on the side of Italy, the 
valleys were completely filled with dense masses of cloud to a 
certain level ; and there — where they felt the influence of the 
wind — they were cut off as level as the top of a table, the ridges 
appearing above them. 

I raced down to Abries, and went on through the gorge of the 
Guil to Mont Dauphin. The next day found me at La Lessee, at 
the junction of the Val Louise with the Valley of the Durance, 
in full view of Mont Pelvoux ; and by chance I walked into a 


cabaret where a Frenchman was breakfasting, who, a few days 
before, had made an unsuccessful attempt to ascend that mountain 
with three Englishmen and the guide Michel Croz of Chamounix ; * 
a right good fellow, by name Jean Eeynaud. 

The same night I slept at Briancon, intending to take the 
courier on the following day to Grenoble ; but all places had been 
secured several days beforehand, so I set out at two p.m. on the 
next day for a seventy-mile walk. The weather was again bad ; 
and on the summit of the Col de Lautaret I was forced to seek 
shelter in the wretched little hospice. It was filled with work- 
men who were employed on the road, and with noxious vapours 
which proceeded from them. The inclemency of the weather was 
preferable to the inhospitality of the interior. Outside, it was 
disagreeable, but grand ; inside, it was disagreeable and mean.")* 
The walk was continued under a deluge of rain, and I felt the 
way down — so intense was the darkness — to the village of La 
Grave, where the people of the inn detained me forcibly. It was 
perhaps fortunate that they did so ; for, during that night, blocks 
of rock fell at several places from the cliffs on to the road with 
such force that they made large holes in the macadam, which 
looked as if there had been explosions of gunpowder. I resumed 
the walk at half-past five the next morning, and proceeded, under 
steady rain, through Bourg d'Oysans to Grenoble, arriving at the 
latter place soon after seven p.m., having accomplished the entire 
distance from Briancon in about eighteen hours of actual walking. 

This was the end of the Alpine portion of my tour of 1860, on 
which I was introduced to the great peaks, and acquired the passion 
for mountain-scrambling, the development of which is described in 
the following chapters. 

* It was to illustrate this ascent that I had been sent to the Val Louise. 

f Since that time a decent house has been built on the summit of this pass. The 
old vaulted hospice was erected for the benefit of the pilgrims who formerly crossed 
the pass en route for Rome. — Joanne's Rineraire clu Dauphine. 




"Thus fortune on our first endeavour smiles." 


The district of which Mont Pelvoux and the neighbouring summits 
are the culminating points,* is, both historically and topographi- 
cally, one of the most interesting in the Alps. As the nursery and 
the home of the Vaudois, it has claims to permanent attention: 
the names of Waldo and of Neff will be remembered when men 

* See the map in chap. ix. , and the general map. 


more famous in their time will be forgotten; and the memory of 
the heroic courage and the simple piety of their disciples will 
endure as long as history lasts. 

This district contains the highest summits in France, and some 
of its finest scenery. It has not perhaps the beauties of Switzer- 
land, but has charms of its own; its cliffs, its torrents, and its 
gorges are unsurpassed ; its deep and savage valleys present pictures 
of grandeur, and even sublimity, and it is second to none in the 
boldness of its mountain forms. 

The district includes a mass of valleys which vie with each 
other in singularity of character and dissimilarity of climate. Some 
the rays of the sun can never reach, they are so deep and narrow* 
In others the very antipodes may be found ; the temperature more 
like that of the plains of Italy than of Alpine France. This great 
range of climate has a marked effect on the flora of these valleys : 
sterility reigns in some ; stones take the place of trees ; debris and 
mud replace plants and flowers: in others, in the space of a few 
miles, one passes vines, apple, pear, and cherry trees, the birch, 
alder, walnut, ash, larch, and pine, alternating with fields of rye, 
barley, oats, beans, and potatoes. 

The valleys are for the most part short and erratic. They are 
not, apparently, arranged on any definite plan ; they are not disposed, 
as is frequently the case elsewhere, either at right angles to, or 
parallel with, the highest summits; but they wander hither and 
thither, taking one direction for a few miles, then doubling back, 
and then perhaps resuming their original course. Thus, long per- 
spectives are rarely to be seen, and it is difficult to form a general 
idea of the disposition of the peaks. 

The highest summits are arranged almost in a horse-shoe form. 
The highest of all, which occupies a central position, is the Pointe 

* The depth of the valleys is so great that the sun not only is not seen for more 
than a few hours per day during the greatest portion of the year, but in some places 
— at Villard d'Arene and at Andrieux for example — it is not seen at all for one 
hundred days. — Ladoucette's Hautcs-Alpcs, p. 599. 


des Ecrins ; the second in height, the Meije,* is on the north ; and 
the Mont Pelvoux, which gives its name to the entire block, stands 
almost detached by itself on the outside. 

The district is still very imperfectly known ; there are probably 
many valleys, and there are certainly many summits which have 
never been trodden by the feet of tourists or travellers ; but in 1861 
it was even less known. Until quite recently there was, practi- 
cally, no map of it ; f General Bourcet's, which was the best that 
was published, was completely wrong in its delineation of the 
mountains, and was frequently incorrect in regard to paths or roads. 

The mountainous regions of Dauphine, moreover, are not sup- 
plied, like Switzerland, the Tyrol, or even the Italian valleys, with 
accommodation for travellers. The inns, when they exist, are filthy 
to an indescribable extent ; rest is seldom obtained in their beds, 
or decent food found in their kitchens, and guides there are none. 
The tourist is thrown very much on his own resources, and it is not 
therefore surprising that these districts are less visited and less 
known than the rest of the Alps. 

Most of the statements current in 1861 respecting these moun- 
tains had been derived from two authors J — M. Elie de Beaumont 

* Sometimes called the Aiguille du Midi de la Grave, or the Aiguille de la Medje. 

t The maps of the Dauphine Alps to Ball's Guide to the Western Alps, and to 
Joanne's Itineraire du Dauphine (both engraved from the unpublished sheets of the 
map of France) must be excepted. These maps are, however, on too small a scale 
for travelling purposes. 

X " Faits pour servir a l'Histoire des Montagues de l'Oisans," by Elie de Beaumont, 
in the Annales des Mines. 

Norway and its Glaciers ; followed by Excursions in the High Alps of Dauphine. 
By J. D. Forbes. 

The following works also treat more or less of the districts referred to in this 
chapter : — 

Histoirc des Hautcs-Alps, by J. C. F. Ladoucette. 

Itineraire du Dauphine, by Adolphe Joanne (2d part). 

Tour du Monde, 1860, edited by Ed. Charton. 

The Israel of the Alps, by Alexis Muston. 

A Memoir of Felix Neff, by W. S. Gilly. 

Good pictures of Dauphine scenery are to be found in Voyages Pittoresques dans 


and the late Principal J. D. Forbes. Their works, however, con- 
tained numerous errors in regard to the identification of the peaks, 
and, amongst others, they referred the supremacy to the Mont 
Peivoux, the highest point of which they termed the Pointe des 
Arcines, or des Ecrins. Principal Forbes erroneously identified the 
high peak seen from the valley of. St. Christophe, with that seen 
from the valley of the Durance, and spoke of both as the Mont 
Pelvoux, and M. de Beaumont committed similar mistakes. In 
point of fact, at the time when M. de Beaumont and Forbes wrote 
their respective memoirs, the proper relation of the Mont Pelvoux 
to the neighbouring summits had been determined by the engineers 
employed on the survey for the map of France, bat their observa- 
tions were not then accessible to the public, although they 
had evidently been seen by M. de Beaumont. This party of 
surveyors, led by Captain Durand, made the ascent of Mont 
Pelvoux from the side of the Yal d'Ailefroide — that is, from 
the direction of Val Louise — in 1828. According to the natives 
of the Yal Louise, they got to the top of the second peak in 
height, and remained upon it, lodged in a tent for several days, 
at a height of 12,904 feet. They took numerous porters to 
carry wood for fires, and erected a large cairn on the summit, 
which has caused the name of Pic de la Pyramide to be given to 
their summit. 

In 1848, M. Puiseux made the ascent from the same direction, 
but his Yal Louisan guide stoiDped short of the summit, and allowed 
this courageous astronomer to proceed by himself. 

In the middle of August 1860, Messrs. Bonney, Hawkshaw, 
and Mathews, with Michel Croz of Chamounix, tried to ascend the 
Pelvoux, likewise from the same direction. These gentlemen spent 

Vancienne France, by Ch. ISTodier, J. Taylor, and A. de Cailleux, and in Lord Mon- 
son's Views in the Departments of the Isere and the High Alps. 

* M. Puiseux took for guide a man named Pierre Borneoud, of Claux in the 
Val Louise ; who had accompanied Captain Durand in 1828. In 1861, the expedition 
of M. Puiseux was quite forgotten in the Val Louise. 1 am indebted to M. Puiseux 
for the above and other details. 



several days and nights upon the mountain; and, encountering bad 
weather, only attained a height of 10,430 feet. 

M. Jean Eeynaud, of whom mention has been made in the pre- 
ceding chapter, accompanied the party of Mr. Mathews, and he 
was of opinion that the attempt had been made too late in the 
season. He said that the weather was usually good enough for 
high mountain ascents only during the last few days of July, and 
the first ones of August,* and suggested that we should attempt to 
ascend the mountain in the following year at that time. The pro- 
position was a tempting one, and Eeynaud's cordial and modest 
manner made it irresistible, although there seemed small chance 
that we should succeed where a party such as that of Mr. Mathews 
had been beaten. 

At the beginning of July 1861, I despatched to Eeynaud from 
Havre, blankets (which were taxed as "prohibited fabrics"), rope, 
and other things desirable for the excursion, and set out on the 
tour of France ; but, four weeks later, at Nimes, found myself com- 
pletely collapsed by the heat, then 94° Faht. in the shade, so I took 
a nicdit train at once to Grenoble. 

Grenoble is a town upon which a volume might be written. Its 
situation is probably the finest of any in France, and the views 
from its high forts are superb. The most noteworthy institution 
of the town is one which has acquired a deserved celebrity]- — the 
Association Alimentaire. This institution, which was started nearly 
twenty years ago by some of the well-to-do inhabitants, was founded 
with the express object of giving to the working or needy popula- 
tion better food, better cooked and at a lower price, than could be 

* This is a common saying in Dauphine. It means that there is usually less 
snow on the mountains during these days than at any other time of the year. The 
natives have an almost childish dread of venturing upon snow or glaciers, and hence 
the period of minimum snow seems to them to be the most favourable time for ex- 

f "The model institution of the kind in France is admitted to be the 'Associa- 
tion A^mentaire ' of Grenoble." — Ten years of Imperialism in France; Blackwood, 


obtained at restaurants or at their own homes. Here the inhabitant 
of Grenoble can obtain a dinner of a quart of soup, meat or fish, 
vegetables, dessert, bread, and a quarter of a litre of sound wine, 
for the sum of sixpence halfpenny. Membership is acquired by 
the payment of a small sum — I believe two francs ; but dinner- 
tickets must be bought in advance, and no credit is given. The 
lower orders have not been slow in recognising the advantages to 
be derived from connection with the Association Alimentaire, which 
is said to have produced the happiest results among them. It is 
creditable to the management that this institution not only pays its 
expenses, but yields a small profit. 

Although Grenoble may fairly be proud of this association, in 
other matters it has cause to be ashamed. Its streets are narrow, 
ill-paved, and tortuous ; and its smells, and the improprieties to be 
seen in its houses, must be known to be appreciated .* 

I lost my way in the streets of this picturesque but noisesome 
town, and having but a half-hour left in which to get a dinner and 
take a place in the diligence, was not well pleased to hear that an 
Englishman wished to see me. It turned out to be my friend Mac- 
donald, who confided to me that he was going to try to ascend a 
mountain called Pelvoux in the course of ten days ; but, on hear- 
ing of my intentions, agreed to join us at La Bessee on the 3d of 
August. In a few moments more I was perched in the banquette 
en route for Bourg d'Oysans, in a miserable vehicle which took 
nearly eight hours to accomplish less than 30 miles. 

At five on a lovely morning I shouldered my knapsack and 
started for Brian^on. Gauzy mists clung to the mountains, but 
melted away when touched by the sun, and disappeared by jerks 
(in the manner of views when focussed in a magic lantern), re- 

* " Les maisons sont beaucoup plus malpropres que les rues. La plupart des 
allees et des escaliers ressemblent a des depots publics d'immondices. Dans la vieille 
ville, les maisons n'ont pas de concierge. Les habitants de la ville, affliges de deplor- 
ables habitudes, y entrent incessament sans scruple et sans pudeur, et rarement les 
propietaires ou les locataires s'associent entre eux pour feire disparaitre les ordures 
qui deshonorent leur demeure." — Joanne's Itinercn'rc die Dauphine, vol. i. p. 118. 


vealing the wonderfully bent and folded strata in the limestone 
cliffs behind the town. Then I entered the Combe de Malval, and 
heard the Komanehe eating its way through that wonderful gorge, 
and passed on to Le Dauphin, where the first glacier came into 
view, tailing over the mountain side on the right. From this place 
until the summit of the Col de Lantaret was passed, every gap in 
the mountains showed a glittering glacier or a soaring peak ; the 
finest view was at La Grave, where the Meije rises by a series of 
tremendous precipices 8000 feet above the road.* The finest dis- 
tant view of the pass is seen after crossing the Col, near Monetier. 
A mountain, commonly supposed to be Monte Yiso, appears at the 
end of the vista, shooting into the sky ;~f" in the middle distance, 
but still ten miles off, is Briancon with its interminable forts, and 
in the foreground, leading down to the Guisane, and rising high 
up the neighbouring slopes, are fertile fields, studded with villages 
and church spires. The next day I walked over from Briancon to 
La Bessee, to my worthy friend Jean Eeynaud, the surveyor of 
roads of his district. 

All the peaks of Mont Pelvoux are well seen from La Bessee, 
the highest point, as well as that upon which the engineers erected 
their cairn. Neither Beynaud nor any one else knew this. The 
natives knew only that the engineers had ascended one peak, and 
had seen from that a still higher point, which they called the 
Pointe des Arcines or des Ecrins. They could not say whether this 
latter could be seen from La Bessee, nor could they tell the peak 
upon which the cairn had been erected. We were under the im- 
pression that the highest point was concealed by the peaks we saw, 
and would be gained by passing over them. They knew nothing 
of the ascent of Monsieur Puiseux, and they confidently asserted 
that the highest point of Mont Pelvoux had not been attained by 
any one ; it was this point we wished to reach. 

* See chapter viii. 

f Monte Viso is not seen from the Lantaret Road. That this is so is seen when 
one crosses the Col ilu Galibier, on the south side of which pass the Monte Viso is 
visible for a short time. 




Nothing prevented our starting at once but the absence of Mac- 
donald and the want of a baton. Keynaud suggested a visit to the 
postmaster, who possessed a baton of local celebrity. Down we 
went to the bureau ; but it was closed : we halloed through the 
slits, but no answer. At last the postmaster was discovered en- 
deavouring (with very fair success) to make himself intoxicated. 
He was just able to ejaculate, " France ! 'tis the first nation in the 


world ! " which is a phrase used by a Frenchman when in the state 
that a Briton begins to shout, " We won't go home till morning " — 
national glory being uppermost in the thoughts of one, and home 
in those of the other. The baton was produced ; it was a branch 
of a young oak, about five feet long, gnarled and twisted in several 
directions. " Sir," said the postmaster, as he presented it, "France ! 
'tis the first — the first nation in the world, by its" — he stuck. 
"Batons?" I suggested. "Yes, yes, sir; by its batons, by its — 
its," and here he could not tret on at all. As I looked at this 

and here he could not get on at all. 


young limb, I thought of my own ; but Eeynaud, who knew 
everything about everybody in the village, said there was not a 
better one, so off we went with it, leaving the official staggering 
in the road and muttering, " Prance ! 'tis the first nation in the 
world ! " 

The 3d of August came, but Macdonald did not appear, so we 
started for the Val Louise ; our party consisting of Eeynaud, my- 
self, and a porter, Jean Casimir Giraud, nicknamed " little nails," 
the shoemaker of the place. An hour and a half's smart walking 
took us to La Ville de Yal Louise, our hearts gladdened by the 
glorious peaks of Pelvoux shining out without a cloud around 
them. I renewed acquaintance with the mayor of "La Ville." 
His aspect was original, and his manners were gracious, but the 
odour which proceeded from him was dreadful. The same may be 
said of most of the inhabitants of these valleys.* 

Eeynaud kindly undertook to look after the commissariat, and 
I found to my annoyance, when we were about to leave, that I had 
given tacit consent to a small wine-cask being carried with us, 
which was a great nuisance from the commencement. It was ex- 
cessively awkward to handle ; one man tried to carry it, and then 
another, and at last it was slung from one of our batons, and was 
carried by two, which gave our party the appearance of a mechani- 
cal diagram to illustrate the uses of levers. 

* Their late prefet shall tell why. "The men and women dress in sheepskins, 
— which have been dried and scoured with salt, of which the feet are used as clasps, 
the fore feet going round the neck, and the hinder ones round the loins. Their arms 
are naked, and the men are only distinguished from the women by the former wear- 
ing wretched drawers, and the latter a sort of gown, which only covers them to just 
below the knees. They sleep without undressing upon straw, and have only sheep- 
skins for coverings. . . . The nature of their food, combined with their dirtiness, 
makes them exhale a strong odour from their bodies, which is smelt from afar, and 
which is almost insupportable to strangers. . . . They live in a most indifferent 
manner, or rather they linger in dreadful misery ; their filthy and hideous coun- 
tenances announce their slovenliness and their stink." — Ladoucette's Histoire dcs 
Hautes-Alpcs, pp. 656-7. The sheepskins are now worn only by the poorest of the 
natives, but the rest of the description is sufficiently accurate. 




At " La Ville " the Val Louise splits into two branches — the Val 
d'Entraigues on the left and the Vallon d'Alefred (or Ailefroide) on 
the right ; our route was up the latter, and we moved steadily for- 
wards to the village of La Pisse, where Pierre Semiond lived, who 
was reputed to know more about the Pelvoux than any other man. 
He looked an honest fellow, but unfortunately he was ill and could 
not come. He recommended his brother, an aged 
creature, whose furrowed and wrinkled face hardly 

seemed to announce the man we wanted ; but 
having no choice, we engaged him and again 
set forth. 

Walnut and a great variety of other trees 
gave shadow to our path and fresh vigour 
to our limbs ; while below, in a sublime 
gorge, thundered the torrent, 
whose waters 
took their 
rise from 
the snows 
we hoped 
to tread on 
the mor- 

could not 
be seen at 
La Ville, 

A r, 




a high intervening ridge 

we were now moving along the foot 

of this to get to the chalets of Alefred, or, as they are some- 
times called, Alefroide, where the mountain actually commences. 
From this direction the subordinate, but more proximate peaks 
appear considerably higher than the loftier ones behind, and 




sometimes completely conceal them. But the whole height of the 
peak, which in these valleys goes under the name of the " Grand 
Pelvoux," is seen at one glance from its summit to its base, six 
or seven thousand feet of nearly perpendicular cliffs. 


The chalets of Alefred are a cluster of miserable wooden huts 
at the foot of the Grand Pelvoux, and are close to the junction of 
the streams which descend from the glacier de Sapeniere (or du 
Sele) on the left, and the glaciers Blanc and Noir on the right. 
We rested a minute to purchase some butter and milk, and Semiond 
picked up a disreputable looking lad to assist in carrying, pushing, 
and otherwise moving the wine-cask. 

Our route now turned sharply to the left, and all were glad that 
the day was drawing to a close, so that we had the shadows from 
the mountains. A more frightful and desolate valley it is scarcely 
possible to imagine ; it contains miles of boulders, debris, stones, 
sand, and mud ; few trees, and they placed so high as to be almost 
out of sight ; not a soul inhabits it ; no birds are in the air, no fish 
in its waters ; the mountain is too steep for the chamois, its slopes 
too inhospitable for the marmot, the whole too repulsive for the 
eagle. Not a living thing did we see in this sterile and savage valley 


during four days, except some few poor goats which had been 
driven there against their will. 

It was a scene in keeping with the diabolical deed perpetrated 
here about four hundred years ago — the murder of the Vaudois of 
Val Louise, in the cavern which was now in sight, though high 
above us. Their story is very sad. Peaceful and industrious, for 
more than three centuries they had inhabited these retired valleys 
in tranquil obscurity. The Archbishops of Embrun endeavoured, 
but with little success, to get them within the pale of their church ; 
their efforts were aided by others, who commenced by imprison- 
ments and torture,* and at last adopted the method of burning them 
by hundreds at the stakcf" 

In the year 1488, Albert Cattanee, Archdeacon of Cremona and 
legate of Pope Innocent VIII., would have anticipated the barbari- 
ties which at a later date roused the indignation of Milton and the 
fears of Cromwell ; \ but, driven everywhere back by the Waldenses 
of Piedmont, he left their valleys and crossed the Mont Genevre to 
attack the weaker and more thinly populated valleys of the Vau- 
dois in Dauphine. At the head of an army which is said to have 
been composed of vagabonds, robbers, and assassins (who had been 
tempted to his banner by promises of absolution beforehand, of 
being set free from the obligation of vows which they might have 
made, and by the confirmation of property to them which they 
might have wrongfully acquired), as well as regular troops, Cattanee 
poured down the valley of the Durance. The inhabitants of the 
Val Louise fled before a host that was ten times their number, and 
took up their abode in this cavern, where they had collected pro- 

* It became a regular business. " We find amongst the current accounts of the 
Bailiff of Embrun this singular article — ' Item, for persecuting the Vaudois, eight sols 
and thirty denier s of gold.'' " — Muston, vol. i. p. 38. 

t On the 22d of May 1393, eighty persons of the valleys of Freissinieres "and 
Argentiere, and one hundred and fifty persons of the Val Louise, were burnt at 
Embrun. — Muston, vol. i. p. 41. 

+ See Morland's History of the Evangelical Churches of Piedmont, 1658 ; Crom- 
well's Acts, 1658 ; and Burton's Diary, 1828. 



visions sufficient for two years. But intolerance is ever pains- 
taking ; their retreat was discovered. Cattanee had a captain who 
combined the resources of a Herod to the cruelty of a Pelissier, and, 
lowering his men by ropes, fired piles of brushwood at the entrance 
to the cavern, suffocated the majority, and slew the remainder. 
The Vaudois were relentlessly exterminated, without distinction of 
age or sex. More than three thousand persons, it is said, perished 
in this frightful massacre ; the growth of three hundred and fifty 
years was destroyed at one blow, and the valley was completely 
depopulated. Louis XII. caused it to be re-peopled, and after 
another three centuries and a half, behold the result — a race of 

We rested a little at a small spring, and then hastened onwards 
till we nearly arrived at the foot of the Sapeniere glacier, when 
Semiond said we must turn to the right, up the slopes. This we 
did, and clambered for half-an-hour through scattered pines and 
fallen boulders. Then evening began to close in rapidly, and it 
was time to look for a resting-place. There was no difficulty in 
getting one, for all around it was a chaotic assemblage of rocks. 
We selected the under side of one, which was more than fifty feet 
long by twenty high, cleared it of rubbish, and then collected wood 
for a fire. 

That camp-fire is a pleasant reminiscence. The wine-cask had 
got through all its troubles ; it was tapped, and the Frenchmen 
seemed to derive some consolation from its execrable contents. 
Eeynaud chanted scraps of French songs, and each contributed his 

* The commune of the Val Louise contains at the present time about 3400 inhabi- 
tants. This cretin population has been aptly described by M. Elisee Eeclus in the 
Tour du Monde, 1860. He says — "They attain the highest possible development of 
their intelligence in their infancy, and — abundantly provided with majestic goitres, 
which are lengthened and swollen by age — are in this respect like to the ourang-outaiigs, 
who have nothing more to acquire after the age of three years. At the age of five 
years the little cretins have already the placid and mature expression which they 
ought to keep all their lives. . . . They wear trousers, and coats with tails, and 
a, larsrc black hat." 

chap. ii. FIRST NIGHT OUT. 27 

share of joke, story, or verse. The weather was perfect, and our 
prospects for the morrow were good. My companions' joy culmi- 
nated when a packet of red fire was thrown into the flames. It 
hissed and bubbled for a moment or two, and then broke out into 
a grand flare. The effect of the momentary light was magnificent ; 
all around the mountains were illuminated for a second, and then 
relapsed into their solemn gloom. One by one our party dropped 
off to sleep, and at last I got into my blanket-bag. It was hardly 
necessary, for, although we were at a height of at least 7000 feet, 
the minimum temperature was above 40° Fahrenheit. 

We roused at three, but did not start till half-past four. 
Giraud had been engaged as far as this rock only, but as he 
wished to go on, we allowed him to accompany us. We mounted 
the slopes and quickly got above the trees, then had a couple of 
hours' clambering over bits of precipitous rock and banks of debris, 
and, at a quarter to seven, got to a narrow glacier — Clos de 
1' Homme — which streamed out of the plateau on the summit, and 
nearly reached the glacier de Sapeniere. We worked as much as 
possible to the right, in hopes that we should not have to cross it, 
but were continually driven back, and at last we found that it was 
necessary to do so. Old Semiond had a strong objection to the 
ice, and made explorations on his own account to endeavour to 
avoid it ; but Eeynaud and I preferred to cross it, and Giraud 
stuck to us. It was narrow — in fact, one could throw a stone 
across it — and was easily mounted on the side ; but in the centre 
swelled into a steep dome, up which we were obliged to cut. 
Giraud stepped forward and said he should like to try his hand, 
and having got hold of the axe, would not give it up ; and here, as 
well as afterwards when it was necessary to cross the gullies filled 
with hard snow, which abound on the higher part of the mountain, 
he did all the work, and did it admirably. 

Old Semiond of course came after us when we got across. We 
then zigzagged up some snow-slopes, and shortly afterwards 
commenced to ascend the interminable array of buttresses which 


are the great peculiarity of the Pelvoux.* They were very steep 
in many places, but on the whole afforded good hold, and no 
climbing should be called difficult which does that. Gullies 
abounded among them, sometimes of great length and depth. 
They were frequently rotten, and would have been difficult for a 
single man to pass. The uppermost men were continually abused 
for dislodging rocks and for harpooning those below with their 
batons. However, without these incidents the climbing would 
have been dull — they helped to break the monotony. 

We went up chimneys and gullies by the hour together, and 
always seemed to be coming to something, although we never got 
to it. The outline sketch will help to explain tb< 
situation. We stood at the foot of a 
tress — perhaps about 200 feet high — : 
looked up. It did not go to a point as 
in the diagram, because we could not 
see the top ; although we felt 
convinced that behind the 
fringe of pinnacles we 
did see there was a 
top, and that it was the buttresses of mont pelvoux. 

edge of the plateau we so much desired to attain. Up we mounted, 
and reached the pinnacles ; but, lo ! another set was seen,— and 
another,— and yet more— till at last we reached the top, and found 
it was only a buttress, and that we had to descend 40 or 50 feet 
before we could commence to mount again. When this operation 
had been performed a few dozen times it began to be wearisome, 
especially as we were in the dark as to our whereabouts. Semiond, 
however, encouraged us, and said he knew we were on the right 
route, — so away we went once more. 

It was now nearly mid-day, and we seemed no nearer the sum- 
mit of the Pelvoux than when we started. At last we all joined 

* "The nucleus of the 'massif is a fine protogine, divided by nearly vertical 
cracks." — Dollfus-Ausset. 

chap. ii. AN ARRIVAL. 29 

together and held a council. " Semiond, old friend, do yon know 
where we are now?" "Oh yes, perfectly, to a yard and a half." 
" Well, then, how much are we below this platean ?" He affirmed 
we were not half-an-honr from the edge of the snow. " Very good ; 
let us proceed." Half-an-honr passed, and then another, bnt we 
were still in the same state, — pinnacles, buttresses, and gullies were 
in profusion, but the plateau was not in sight. So we called him 
again — for he had been staring about latterly, as if in doubt — and 
repeated the question. "How far below are we now?" Well, he 
thought it might be half-an-hour more. " But you said that just 
now; are you sure we are going right?" "Yes, he believed we 
were." Believed ! that would not do. " Are you sure we are going 
right for the Pie des Archies ?" " Pie des Arcines !" he ejaculated 
in astonishment, as if he had heard the words for the first time. 
" Pie des Arcines ; no ! but for the pyramid, the celebrated pyra- 
mid he had helped the great Capitaine Durand," etc. 

Here was a fix ; — we had been talking about it to him for a 
whole day, and now he confessed he knew nothing about it. I 
turned to Eeynaud, who seemed thunderstruck. " What did he 
suggest?" He shrugged his shoulders. "Well," we said, after ex- 
plaining our minds pretty freely to Semiond, " the sooner we turn 
back the better, for we have no wish to see your pyramid." 

We halted for an hour, and then commenced the descent. It 
took us nearly seven hours to come down to our rock : but I paid no 
heed to the distance, and do not remember anything about it. 
When we got down we made a discovery which affected us as much 
as the footprint in the sand did Kobinson Crusoe : a blue silk veil 
lay by our fireside. There was but one solution, — Macdonald had 
arrived ; but where was he ? We soon packed our baggage, and 
tramped in the dusk, through the stony desert, to Alefred, where 
we arrived about half-past nine. "Where is the Englishman?" 
was the first question. He was gone to sleep at La Ville. 

We passed that night in a hay-loft, and in the morning, after 
settling with Semiond, we posted down to catch Macdonald. We 


had already determined on the plan of operation, which was to get him 
to join us, return, and be independent of all guides, simply taking 
the best man we could get as a porter. I set my heart on Giraud, — 
a good fellow, with no pretence, although in every respect up to the 
work. But we were disappointed ; he was obliged to go to Briancon. 

The walk soon became exciting. The natives inquired the 
result of our expedition, and common civility obliged us to stop. 
But I was afraid of losing my man, for it was said he would wait 
only till ten o'clock, and that time was near at hand. At last I 
dashed over the bridge, — time from Alefred an hour and a quarter ; 
but a cantonnier stopped me, saying that the Englishman had just 
started for La Bessee. I rushed after him, turned angle after angle 
of the road, but could not see him ; at last, as I came round a cor- 
ner, he was also just turning another, going very fast. I shouted, 
and luckily he heard me. We returned, re-provisioned ourselves 
at La Ville, and the same evening saw us passing our first rock, en 
route for another. I have said we determined to take no guide ; 
but, on passing La Pisse, old Semiond turned out and offered his 
services. He went well, in spite of his years and disregard of 
truth. "Why not take him?" said my friend. So we offered him 
a fifth of his previous pay, and in a few seconds he closed with the 
offer ; but this time came in an inferior position, — we were to lead, 
he to follow. Our second follower was a youth of twenty-seven 
years, who was not all that could be desired. He drank Eeynaud's 
wine, smoked our cigars, and quietly secreted the provisions when 
we were nearly starving. Discovery of his proceedings did not at 
all disconcert him, and he finished up by getting several items 
added to our bill at La Ville, which, not a little to his disgust, we 

This night we fixed our camp high above the tree line, and 
indulged ourselves in the healthy employment of carrying our fuel 
up to it. The present rock was not so comfortable as the first, and, 
before we could settle down, we were obliged to turn out a large 
mass which was in the way. It was very obstinate, but moved at 




length ; slowly and gently at first, then faster and faster, at last 
taking great jumps in the air, striking a stream of fire at every 
touch, which shone out brightly as it entered the gloomy valley 
below, and long after it was out of sight we heard it bounding 
downwards, and then settle with a subdued crash on the glacier 
beneath. As we turned back from this curious sight, Eeynaud 
asked if we had ever seen a torrent on fire, and told us that in the 
spring, the Durance, swollen by the melting of the snow, sometimes 
brings down so many rocks, that, where it passes through a narrow 
gorge at La Bessee, no water whatever is seen, but only boulders 
rolling over and over, grinding each other into powder, and striking 
so many sparks that the stream looks as if it were on fire. 

We had another merry evening with nothing to mar it ; the 
weather was perfect, and we lay backward in luxurious repose, 
looking at the sky spangled with its ten thousand brilliant lights. 

' ' The ranges stood 
Transfigured in the silver flood, 
Their snows were flashing cold and keen, 
Dead white, save where some sharp ravine 
Took shadow, or the sombre green 
Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black, 
Against the whiteness at their back."* 

Macdonalcl related his experiences 
over the cafe noir. He had travelled 
day and night for several days in order 
to join us, but had failed to find our 
first bivouac, and had camped a few hun- 
dred yards from us under another rock, 
higher up the mountain. The next 
morning he discerned us going along a 
ridge at a great height above him, and 
as it was useless to endeavour to over- 
take us, he lay down and watched with a heavy heart until we 
had turned the corner of a buttress, and vanished out of sight. 

* J. G. Whittier, "Snow-Bound." 


Nothing but the heavy breathing of our already sound asleep 
comrades broke the solemn stillness of the night. It was a silence 
to be felt. Nothing ? Hark ! what is that dull booming sound 
above us ? Is that nothing ? There it is again, plainer — on it 
comes, nearer, clearer ; 'tis a crag escaped from the heights above ! 
What a fearful crash ! We jump to our feet. Down it comes with 
awful fury ; what power can withstand its violence ? Dancing, 
leaping, flying ; dashing against others ; roaring as it descends. 
Ah, it has passed ! No ; there it is again, and we hold our breath, 
as, with resistless force and explosions like artillery, it darts past, 
with an avalanche of shattered fragments trailing in its rear ! 'Tis 
gone, and we breathe more freely as we hear the finale on the 
glacier below.'"' 

We retired at last, but I was too excited to sleep. At a quarter- 
past four every man once more shouldered his pack and started. 
This time we agreed to keep more to the right, to see if it were not 
possible to get to the plateau without losing any time by crossing 
the glacier. To describe our route would be to repeat what has been 
said before. We mounted steadily for an hour and a half, sometimes 
walking, but more frequently climbing, and then found, after all, that 
it was necessary to cross the glacier. The part on which we struck 
came down a very steep slope, and was much crevassed. The word 
crevassed hardly expresses its appearance — it was a mass of formid- 
able seracs. We found, however, more difficulty in getting on than 
across it ; but, thanks to the rope, it was passed somehow ; then the 
interminable buttresses began again. Hour after hour we proceeded 
upwards, frequently at fault, and obliged to descend. The ridge 
behind us had sunk long ago, and we looked over it, and all others, 
till our eyes rested on the majestic Viso. Hour after hour passed, 
and monotony was the order of the day ; when twelve o'clock came 
we lunched, and contemplated the scene with satisfaction ; all the 

* M. Puiseux, on his expedition of 1848, was surprised, when at breakfast on 
the side of the mountain, by a mass of rock of more than a cubic yard falling like a 
bomb at his side, which threw up splinters in ;ill directions. 




summits in sight, with the single exception of the Viso, had given 
in, and we looked over an immense expanse — a perfect sea of peaks 
and snow-fields. Still the pinnacles rose above us, and opinions 
were freely uttered that we should see no summit of Pelvoux that 
day. Old Semiond had become a perfect bore to all ; whenever 
one rested for a moment to look about, he would say, with a com- 
placent chuckle, " Don't be afraid, follow me." We came at last to 


f > 








a very bad piece, rotten and steep, and no hold. Here Eeynaud 
and Macdonald confessed to being tired, and talked of going to 
sleep. A way was discovered out of the difficulty ; then some one 
called out, " Look at the Viso," and we saw that we almost looked 
over it. We worked away with redoubled energy, and at length 
caught sight of the head of the glacier as it streamed out of the 
plateau. This gave us fresh hopes ; we were not deceived ; and 
with a simultaneous shout we greeted the appearance of our long- 
wished-for snows. A large crevasse separated us from them ; but 
a bridge was found ; we tied ourselves in line, and moved safely 
over it. Directly we got across there rose before us a fine snow- 



capped peak. Old Semiond cried, " The pyramid ! I see trie pyra- 
mid !" "Where, Semiond, where?" "There; on the top of that 

There, sure enough, was the cairn he had helped to erect more 
than thirty years before. But where was the Pic des Arcines which 
we were to see ? It was nowhere visible, but only a great expanse 
of snow, bordered by three lower peaks. Somewhat sadly we 
moved towards the pyramid, sighing that there was no other to 
conquer ; but hardly had we gone two hundred paces, before there 
rose a superb white cone on the left, which had been hidden before 
by a slope of snow. We shouted — "The Pic des Arcines!" and 
inquired of Semiond if he knew whether that peak had been 
ascended. As for him, he knew nothing, except that the peak 
before us was called the pyramid, from the cairn he had, etc. 
etc., and that it had not been ascended since. • " All right then — 
face about," and we immediately turned at right angles for the cone, 
the porter making faint struggles for his beloved pyramid. Our 
progress was stopped, in the sixth of a mile, by the edge of the 
ridge connecting the two peaks, and we perceived that it curled 
over in a lovely volute. We involuntarily retreated. Semiond, 
who was last in the line, took the opportunity to untie himself, and 
refused to come on ; said we were running dangerous risks, and 
talked vaguely of crevasses. We tied him up again, and proceeded. 
The snow was very soft ; we were always knee-deep, and sometimes 
floundered in up to the waist ; but a simultaneous jerk before and 
behind always released one. By this time we had arrived at the 
foot of the final peak. The left-hand ridge seemed easier than that 
upon which we stood, so we curved round to get to it. Some rocks 
peeped out 150 feet below the summit, and up these we crawled, 
leaving our porter behind, as he said he was afraid. I could not 
resist the temptation, as we went off, to turn round and beckon him 
onwards, saying, "Don't be afraid — follow me," but he did not 
answer to the appeal, and never went to the top. The rocks led to 
a short ridge of ice — our plateau on one side, and a nearly vertical 


precipice on trie other. Macdonald cut up it, and at a quarter to 
two we stood shaking hands on the loftiest summit of the con- 
quered Pelvoux. 

The day still continued everything that could be desired, and, 
far and near, countless peaks burst into sight, without a cloud to 
hide them. The mighty Mont Blanc, full seventy miles away, first 
caught our eyes, and then, still farther off, the Monte Eosa group ; 
while, roiling away to the east, one unknown range after another 
succeeded in unveiled splendour ; fainter and fainter in tone, but 
still perfectly defined, till at last the eye was unable to distinguish 
sky from mountain, and they died away in the far-off horizon. 
Monte Viso rose up grandly, but it was less than forty miles away, 
and we looked over it to a hazy mass we knew must be the plains 
of Piedmont. Southwards a blue mist seemed to indicate the 
existence of the distant Mediterranean ; to the west we looked over 
to the mountains of Auvergne. Such was the panorama ; a view 
extending in nearly every direction for more than one hundred 
miles. It was with some difficulty we wrenched our eyes from the 
more distant objects to contemplate the nearer ones. Mont 
Dauphin was very conspicuous, but La Bessee was not readily 
perceived. Besides these not a human habitation could be seen ; 
all was rock, snow, or ice ; and, large as we knew were the snow- 
fields of Dauphine, we were surprised to find that they very far 
surpassed our most ardent imagination. Nearly in a line between 
us and the Viso, immediately to the south of Chateau Queyras, was 
a splendid group of mountains of great height. More to the south 
an unknown peak seemed still higher ; while close to us we were 
astonished to discover that there was a mountain which appeared 
even higher than that on which we stood. At least this was my 
opinion ; Macdonald thought it not so high, and Eeynaud much 
about the same as our own. 

This mountain was distant a couple of miles or so, and was 
separated from us by a tremendous abyss, the bottom of which we 
could not see. On the other side rose this mighty wall-sided peak, 


too steep for snow, black as night, with sharp ridges and pointed 
summit. We were in complete ignorance of its whereabouts, for 
none of us had been on the other side ; we imagined that La 
Berarde was in the abyss at our feet, but it was in reality beyond 
the other mountain* 

We left the summit at last, and descended to the rocks and to 
our porter, where I boiled some water, obtained by melting snow. 
After we had fed, and smoked our cigars (lighted without difficulty 
from a common match), we found it was ten minutes past three, 
and high time to be off. We dashed, wacled, and tumbled for 
twenty-five minutes through the snow, and then began the long 
descent of the rocks. It was nearly four o'clock, and, as it would 
be dark at eight, it was evident that there was no time to be lost, 
and we pushed on to the utmost. Nothing remarkable occurred 
going down. We kept rather closer to the glacier, and crossed at 
the same point as in the morning. Getting off it was like getting 
on it — rather awkward. Old Semiond had got over — so had 
Eeynaud ; Macdonald came next, but, as he made a long stretch to 
get on to a higher mass, he slipped, and would have been in the 
bowels of a crevasse in a moment had he not been tied. 

It was nearly dark by the time we had crossed, but I still hoped 
that we should be able to pass the night at our rock. Macdonald 
was not so sanguine, and he was right ; for at last we found our- 
selves quite at fault, and wandered helplessly up and down for an 
hour, while Eeynaud and the porter indulged in a little mutual 
abuse. The dreary fact that, as we could not get down, we must 
stay where we were, was now quite apparent. 

* This mountain is the culminating point of the group, and is named on the 
French map Pointe des Ecrins. It is seen from the Val Christophe, and from that direc- 
tion its ridges completely conceal Mont Pelvoux. But on the other side — that is, from 
the direction of La Bessee or the Val Louise — the reverse is the case : the Pelvoux 
completely conceals it. 

Unaware that this name was going to be applied to it, we gave the name Pic des 
Archies, or des Ecrins, to our summit, in accordance with the traditions of the 

chap. ii. SURPRISED BY NIGHT. 37 

We were at least 10,500 feet high, and if it commenced to rain 
or snow, as the gathering clouds and rising wind seemed to threaten, 
we might be in a sore plight. We were hungry, having eaten 
little since 3 a.m., and a torrent we heard close at hand, but could 
not discover, aggravated our thirst. Semiond endeavoured to get 
some water from it; but, although he succeeded in doing so, he 
was wholly unable to return, and we had to solace him by shouting 
at intervals through the night. 

A more detestable locality for a night out of doors it is difficult 
to imagine. There was not shelter of any kind ; it was perfectly 
exposed to the chilly wind which began to rise, and it was too 
steep to promenade. Loose rubbly stones covered the ground, and 
had to be removed before we could sit with any comfort. This was 
an advantage, although we hardly thought so at the time, as it gave 
us some employment, and, after an hour's active exercise of that in- 
teresting kind, I obtained a small strip about nine feet long, on 
which it was possible to walk. Reynaud was furious at first, and 
soundly abused the porter, whose opinion as to the route down had 
been followed rather than that of our friend, and at last settled 
down to a deep dramatic despair, and wrung his hands with frantic 
gesture, as he exclaimed, "Oh, malheur, malheur! Oh miserables!" 

Thunder commenced to growl, and lightning to play among the 
peaks above, and the wind, which had brought the temperature 
down to nearly freezing-point, began to chill us to the bones. We 
examined our resources. They were six and a half cigars, two 
boxes of vesuvians, one-third of a pint of brandy-and-water, and 
half-a-pint of spirits of wine: rather scant fare for three fellows 
who had to get through seven hours before daylight. The spirit- 
lamp was lighted, and the remaining spirits of wine, the brandy 
and some snow was heated by it. It made a strong liquor, but we 
only wished for more of it. When that was over, Macdonald en- 
deavoured to dry his socks by the lamp, and then the three lay down 
under my plaid to pretend to sleep. Eeynaud's woes were aggravated 
by toothache ; Macdonald somehow managed to close his eyes. 


The longest night must end, and ours did at last. We got 
down to our rock in an hour and a quarter, and found the lad not a 
little surprised at our absence. He said he had made a gigantic fire 
to light us down, and shouted with all his might ; we neither saw 
the fire nor heard his shouts. He said we looked a ghastly crew, 
and no wonder ; it was our fourth night out. 

We feasted at our cave, and performed some very necessary ablu- 
tions. The persons of the natives are infested by certain agile 
creatures, whose rapidity of motion is only equalled by their num- 
bers and voracity. It is dangerous to approach too near them, and 
one has to study the wind, so as to get on their weather-side : in 
spite of all such precautions my unfortunate companion and myself 
were being rapidly devoured alive. We only expected a temporary 
lull of our tortures, for the interiors of the inns are like the ex- 
teriors of the natives, swarming with this species of animated 

It is said that once, when these tormentors were filled with an 
unanimous desire, an unsuspecting traveller was dragged bodily 
from his bed ! This needs confirmation. One word more, and I 
have done with this vile subject. We returned from our ablutions, 
and found the Frenchmen engaged in conversation. " Ah ! " said 
old Semiond, "as to fleas, I don't pretend to be different to anyone 
else, — I have tliem" This time he certainly spoke the truth. 

We got down to La Yille in good time, and luxuriated there for 
several days ; played many games of bowls with the natives, and 
were invariably beaten by them. At last it was necessary to part, 
and I walked southwards to the Yiso, while Macdonald went to 

I have not attempted to conceal that the ascent of Mont Pel- 
voux is of a rather monotonous character ; the view from its summit 
can, however, be confidently recommended. A glance at the map 
will show that with the single exception of the Viso, whose position 
is unrivalled, it is better situated than any other mountain of con- 
siderable height for viewing the whole of the Western Alps. 

chap. ii. EN ROUTE FOB MONTE VISO. 39 

Our discovery that the peak which is to be called the Pointe 
des Ecrins was a separate and distinct mountain from Mont Pel- 
voux — and not its highest point — gave us satisfaction, although it 
was also rather of the nature of a disappointment * 

On our return to La Bessee we wrongly identified it with the 
peak which is seen from thence to the left of the Pelvoux. The 
two mountains bear a considerable resemblance to each other, so 
the mistake is not, perhaps, unpardonable. Although the latter 
mountain is one that is considerably higher than the Wetterhorn 
or Monte Viso, it has no name ; we called it the Pic Sans ISTom. 

It has been observed by others that it is improbable the French 
surveyors should have remained for several days upon the Pic de 
la Pyramide without visiting the other and loftier summit. If 
they did, it is strange that they did not leave some memorial of 
their visit. The natives who accompanied them asserted that they 
did not pass from one to the other ; we therefore claimed to have 
made the ascent of the loftiest point for the first time. The 
claim, however, cannot be sustained, on account of the ascent of 
M. Puiseux. It is a matter of little moment ; the excursion had 
for us all the interest of a first ascent ; and I look back upon this, 
my first serious mountain scramble, with more satisfaction, and 
with as much pleasure as upon any that is recorded in this volume. 

After parting from my agreeable companions; I walked by the 
gorge of the Guil to Abides, and made the acquaintance at that 
place of an ex-harbour-master of Marseilles, — a genial man, who 
spoke English well. Besides the ex-harbour-master and some fine 
trout in the neighbouring streams, there was little to invite a stay 
at Abries. The inn — l'Etoile, chez Eichard — is a place to be 
avoided. Eichard, it may be observed, possessed the instincts of a 
robber. At a later date, when forced to seek shelter in his house, 

* We afterwards learned that Mr, M'Culloch had announced the fact a long time 
before in his Geographical Dictionary . 


lie desired to see my passport, and, catching sight of the words 
John Bussell, he entered that name instead of my own in a report 
to the gendarmerie, uttering an exclamation of joyful surprise at 
the same time. I foolishly allowed the mistake to pass, and had to 
pay dearly for it ; for he made out a lordly bill, against which all 
protest was unavailing. 

His innocent and not unnatural mistake was eclipsed by a 
gendarme of Bourg d'Oysans, who took the passport, gravely held 
it upside down for several minutes, pretended to read it, and handed 
it back, saying it was all right. 

Bound about Abries the patois of the district is more or less 
Italian in character, and the pronunciation of the natives reminds 
one of a cockney who attempts to speak French for the first time, 
Here bread is pronounced pane, and cheese, fromargee. There are 
a considerable number of dialects in use in this corner of France ; 
and sometimes in the space of only a few miles one can find several, 
all of which are as unintelligible to the natives of the surrounding 
districts as they are to the traveller. In some districts the spelling 
of the patois is the same ; but the pronunciation is different — in this 
resembling the Chinese. It is not easy for the stranger to under- 
stand the dialects, either written or spoken ; and this will be 
readily perceived from the samples given below, which are different 
versions of the parable of the prodigal son* 

I quitted the abominations of Abries to seek a quiet bundle of 
hay at Le Chalp — a village some miles nearer to the Viso. On 

* " Un sarten homme aie clous garcous ; lou pus jouve dissec a soun paire : — 
' Moun paire, beila nie la pourtiou d'ou ben que me reven. ' Et lou paire fee en 
chascu sa part. Et paou de tens apres, lou cadet, quant aguec fachs sa pacoutilla, 
se mettec en routo et s'en anec dine un pais eiloigna, ounte mangec tout ce qu'aie enbe 
les fumelles. Et quant aguec tout fricassa l'y aguec dine aqueou pais-acqui une 
grande famine, et coumensec a averfamp." 

The above is a specimen of the patois of the neighbourhood of Gap ; the following 
is that of Monetier : — 

" Un home avas dou bos. Lou plus giouve de isou disse a son pere : — ' Moun pere, 
moun pere, douna-me soque me duou reveni de vatre be. ' Et lou pere lour faze ou por- 
tage de soun be. Paouc de giours apres, lou plus giouve deiquelou dou bos, apres aveira 

chap. El. DESERTERS. 41 

approaching the place the odour of sanctity* became distinctly 
perceptible ; and on turning a corner the cause was manifested ; 
there was the priest of the place, surrounded by some of his flock. 
I advanced humbly, hat in hand, but almost before a word could be 
said, he broke out with, "Who are you ?" " What are you?" "What do 
you want ?" I endeavoured to explain. "You are a deserter ; I know 
you are a deserter ; go away, you can't stay here ; go to Le Monta, 
down there ; I won't have you here," and he literally drove me away. 
The explanation of his strange behaviour was that Piedmontese 
soldiers who were tired of the service had not unfrequently crossed 
the Col de la Traversette into the valley, and trouble had arisen 
from harbouring them. However, I did not know this at the time, 
and was not a little indignant that I, who was marching to the 
attack, should be taken for a deserter. 

So I walked away, and shortly afterwards, as it was getting 
dark, encamped in a lovely hole — a cavity or kind of basin in the 
earth, with a stream on one side, a rock to windward, and some 
broken pine branches close at hand. Nothing could be more per- 
fect : rock, hole, wood, and water. After making a roaring fire, I 
nestled in my blanket bag (an ordinary blanket sewn up, double 
round the legs, with a piece of elastic riband round the open end), 
and slept, but not for long. I was troubled with dreams of the In- 
quisition ; the tortures were being applied — priests were forcing fleas 
down my nostrils and into my eyes — and with red-hot pincers were 
taking out bits of flesh, and then cutting off my ears and tickling 
the soles of my feet. This was too much ; I yelled a great yell and 
awoke, to find myself covered with innumerable crawling bodies ; 
they were ants ; I had camped by an ant-hill, and, after making its 
inhabitants mad with the fire, had coolly lain down in their midst. 

The night was fine, and as I settled down in more comfortable 

amassa tout so que aou lavie, sen ane diens un pais etraugie ben leigu, aount aous 
clissipe tout soun be diens la grande deipensa et en deibaucha. Apres qu'aou lague 
tout deipensa, larribe una grand fainina diens iquaou pais ilai, et aou cheique diens 
lou besoign." — Ladoucette's Histoire des Hautes-Alpes, pp. 613, 618. 
* See p. 22. 





quarters, a brilliant meteor sailed across full 60° of the cloudless 
sky, leaving a trail of light behind which lasted for several seconds. 
Tt was the herald of a splendid spectacle. Stars fell by hundreds ; 


and not dimmed by intervening vapours, they sparkled with greater 
brightness than Sirius in our damp climate. 

The next morning, after walking up the valley to examine the 
Yiso, I returned to Abries, and engaged a man from a neighbouring 
hamlet, for whom the ex-harbour-master had sent ; an inveterate 
smoker, and thirsty in proportion, whose pipe never left his mouth 
except to allow him to drink. We returned up the valley together 
and slept in a hut of a shepherd, whose yearly wage was almost as 
small as that of the herdsman spoken of in Hyperion by Long- 
fellow ; and the next morning, in his company, proceeded to the 
summit of the pass which I had crossed in 1860 ; but we were 
bathed in our attempt to get near the mountain ; a deep notch * 

* There are three cols or passes close to Monte Viso on its northern side, which 
lead from the valley of the Po into that of the Gnil. The deep notch spoken of above 
is the nearest to the mountain, and although it is by far the lowest gap in that part 
of the chain, and would seem to be the true Col Viso, it does not appear to be used as 

chap. n. DEFEATED. 43 

with precipitous cliffs cut us off from it ; the snow slope, too, which 
existed in the preceding year on the Piedmontese side of the pass, 
was now wanting, and we were unable to descend the rocks which 
lay beneath. A fortnight afterwards the mountain was ascended 
for the first time by Messrs. Mathews and Jacomb, with the two 
Croz's of Chamounix. Their attempt was made from the southern 
side, and the ascent, which was formerly considered a thing totally 
impossible, has become one of the most common and favourite 
excursions of the district. 

We returned crest-fallen to Abries. The shepherd, whose boots 
were very much out of repair, slipped upon the steep snow-slopes 
and performed wonderful, but alarming, gyrations, which took him 
to the bottom of the valley, more quickly than he could otherwise 
have descended. He was not much hurt, and was made happy by 
a few needles and a little thread to repair his abraded garments ; 
the other man, however, considered it wilful waste to give him 
brandy to rub in his cuts, when it could be disposed of in a more 
ordinary and pleasant manner. 

The night of the 14th of August found me at St. Veran, a village 
made famous by Neff, but in no other respect remarkable, saving 
that it is supposed to be the highest in Europe* The Protestants 
now form only a miserable minority ; in 1861 there were said to be 
120 to 780 Eoman Catholics. The poor innt was kept by one of 
the former, and it gave the impression of great poverty. There was 
no meat, no bread, no butter or cheese ; almost the only things that 
could be obtained were eggs. The manners of the natives were 
primitive ; the woman of the inn, without the least sense of impro- 
priety, staid in the room until I was fairly in bed, and her bill for 
supper, bed, and breakfast, amounted to one and sevenpence. 

a pass. The second, which I crossed in 1860, has the name Col del Color del Porco 
given to it upon the Sardinian map ! The third is the Col de la Traversette ; and 
this, although higher than at least one of those mentioned above, is that which is 
used by the natives who pass from one valley to the other. 

* Its height is about 6600 feet above the sea. 

t Ball's Guide is in error in saying there is no inn. 




Ill this neighbourhood, and indeed all round about the Viso, the 
chamois still remain in considerable numbers. They said at St. 
Veran that six had been seen from the village on the day I was 
there, and the innkeeper declared that he had seen fifty together in 
the previous week ! I myself saw in this and in the previous sea- 
son several small companies round about the Yiso. It is perhaps as 
favourable a district as any in the Alps for a sportsman who wishes 
to hunt the chamois, as the ground over which they wander is by 
no means of excessive difficulty. 

The next day I descended the valley to Ville Yieille, and passed 


near the village of Molines, but on the opposite side of the valley, a 
remarkable natural pillar, in form not unlike a champagne bottle, 

chap. II. HARD FARE. 45 

about seventy feet high, which had been produced by the action of 
the weather, and, in all probability, chiefly by rain. In this case a 
" block of euphotide or diallage rock protects a friable limestone ;" * 
the contrast of this dark cap with the white base, and the singularity 
of the form, made it a striking object. These natural pillars are 
among the most remarkable examples of the potent effects produced 
by the long-continued action of quiet-working forces. They are 
found in several other places in the Alps,t as well as elsewhere. 

The village of Yille Yieille boasts of an inn with the sign of the 
Elephant ; which, in the opinion of local amateurs, is a proof that 
Hannibal passed through the gorge of the Guil. I remember the 
place, because its bread, being only a month old, j' was unusually 
soft, and, for the first time during ten days, it was possible to eat 
some, without first of all chopping it into small pieces and soaking 
it in hot water, which produced a slimy paste on the outside, but 
left a hard untouched kernel. 

The same day I crossed the Col Isoard to Briancon. It was the 
15th of August, and all the world was en fSte; sounds of revelry 
proceeded from the houses of Servieres as I passed over the bridge 
upon which the pyrrhic dance is annually performed, § and natives 
in all degrees of inebriation staggered about the paths. It was late 
before the lights of the great fortress came into sight ; but unchal- 
lenged I passed through the gates, and once more sought shelter 
under the roof of the Hotel de l'Ours. 

* J. D. Forbes. 

+ In the gorge of the Dard, near Aosta ; near Enseigne, in the Val d'Herens ; 
near Stalden, in the Visp Thai ; near Ferden, in the Lotschen Thai ; and, on a grander 
scale, near Botzen, in the Tyrol ; and in America on the Colorado river of the west. — 
See chap. 23. 

X "An ancient and solemn custom wills that each family makes its bread in 
advance for a whole year, in order to show to the envious that corn is not wanting. 
The poor only eat new bread now and then, and do so because they are unable to make 
it at once for a whole year. But they are ashamed of their poverty, and when they 
are making it, hide from the sight of their neighbours. " — Elisee Eeclus, Tour du Monde, 

§ See Ladoucette's Hautcs-Alpes, p. 596. 


a v 4 ui 


& ! 




Guide-books say that the pass of the Mont Cenis* is dull. It is 
long, certainly, but it has a fair proportion of picturesque points, 
and it is not easy to see how it can be dull to those who have eyes. 
In the days when it was a rude mountain-track, crossed by trains 
of mules, and when it was better known to smugglers than to 
tourists, it may have been dull ; but when Napoleon's road changed 
the rough path into one of the finest highways in Europe, mounting 
in grand curves and by uniform grades, and rendered the trot 
possible throughout its entire distance, the Mont Cenis became one 
of the most interesting passes in the Alps. The diligence service 1 
which was established was excellent, and there was little or nothing 

* See the general map. 




to be gained by travelling in a more expensive manner. The 
horses were changed as rapidly as on the best lines in the best 
period of coaching in England, and the diligences themselves were 
as comfortable as a " milord " conld desire. The most exciting 
portion of the ronte was undoubtedly that between Lanslebourg and 
Snsa. When the zig-zags began, teams of mules were hooked on, 
and the driver and his helpers marched by their side with long 
whips, which they handled skilfully. Passengers dismounted, and 
stretched their legs by cutting the curves. The pace was slow but 
steady, and scarcely a halt was made during the rise of 2000 feet. 
Crack ! crack ! went the whips as the corners of the zig-zags were 
turned. Great commotion among the mules ! They scrambled and 
went round with a rush, tossing their heads and making music with 
their bells. The summit was gained, the mules were detached and 
trotted back merrily, while we, with fresh horses, were dragged at 
the gallop over the plain to the other side. The little postilion 

seated on the leader smacked his whip lustily 
as he swept round the corners cut through the 
rock, and threw his head back, as the echoes 
returned, expectant of smiles and of future 

The air was keen and often chilly, but the 
summit was soon passed, and one quickly de- 
scended to warmth again. Once more there was a change. The 
horses, reduced in number to three, or perhaps two, were the 
sturdiest and most sure of foot, and they raced down with the pre- 
cision of old stagers. Woe to the diligence if they stumbled ! So 
thought the conductor, who screwed down the breaks as the corners 
were approached. The horses, held well in hand, leant inwards as 
the top-heavy vehicle, so suddenly checked, heeled almost over ; but 
in another moment the break was released, and again they swept 
down, urged onwards by whip, " hoi," and " ha " of the driver. 

All this is changed. The Victor Emmanuel railway superseded 
a considerable portion of Napoleon's road, and the " Fell " railway 


has the rest. In a few years more the great tunnel of the Alps 
will be completed, and that will bring about another change. 

The Fell railway, which has been open about eighteen months, 
is a line that well deserves attention. Thirty-eight years ago Mr. 
Charles Vignolles, the eminent engineer, and Mr. Ericsson, patented 
the idea which is now an accomplished fact on the Mont Cenis. 
Nothing was done with it until Mr. Fell, the projector of the rail- 
way which bears his name, took it up, and to him much credit is 
due for bringing an admirable principle into operation. 

The Fell railway follows the great Cenis road very closely, and 
diverges from it either to avoid villages or houses, or, as at the 
summit of the pass on the Italian side, to ease the gradients. The 
line runs from St. Michel to Susa. The distance between those 
two places is, as the crow flies, almost exactly equivalent to the 
distance from London to Chatham ; but by reason of the numerous 
curves and detours the length of the line is nearly brought up to the 
distance of London from Brighton. From St. Michel to the summit 
of the pass it rises 4460 feet, or 900 feet more than the highest point 
of Snowdon is above the level of the sea ; and from the summit of 
the pass to Susa, a distance less than that from London to Kew, it 
descends no less than 5211 feet ! 

The railway itself is a marvel. For fifteen miles and three- 
quarters it has steeper gradients than one in fifteen. In some 
places it is one in twelve and a half ! An incline at this angle, 
starting from the base of the Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square, 
would reach the top of St. Paul's Cathedral if it were placed at 
Temple Bar ! A straight piece of railway constructed on such a 
gradient seems to go up a steep hill. One in eighty, or even one in 
a hundred, produces a very sensible diminution in the pace of a 
light train drawn by an ordinary locomotive ; how then is a train 
to be taken up an incline that is six times as steep ? It is accom- 
plished by means of a third rail placed midway between the two 
ordinary ones, and elevated above them * The engines are provided 

* This third rail, or, as it is termed, " the centre rail," is laid on all the steep por- 




with two pairs of horizontal driving-wheels as well as with the 
ordinary coupled vertical ones, and the power of the machine is thus 
enormously increased ; the horizontal wheels gripping the centre 
rail with great tenacity by being brought together, and being almost 
incapable of slipping, like the ordinary wheels when on even a 
moderate gradient.* 
The third rail is 
the ordinary double- 
headed rail, and is 
laid horizontally ; it 
is bolted down to 
wrought iron chairs, 
three feet apart, 
which are fixed by 
common coach- 

screws to a longitu- 
dinal sleeper, laid 

upon the usual transverse ones : the sleepers are attached to each 
other by fang-bolts. The dimensions of the different parts will be 
seen by reference to the annexed cross section : — 




1 ■ ' I 

Let us now take a run on the railway, starting from St. Michel. 
For some distance from that place the gradients are not of an ex- 

tions of the line, and round all except the mildest curves. Thirty miles, in all, of 
the road have the centre rail. 

* These engines are described in the reports by Captain Tyler to the Board of 



traordinary character, and a good pace is maintained. The first 
severe piece is about two miles up, where there is an incline of one 
in eighteen* for more than half-a-mile ; — that is to say, the line rises 
at one step one hundred and sixty-four feet. From thence 'to 
Modane the gradients are again moderate (for the Fell railway) 
and the distance — about ten miles and a half from St. Michel — 
is accomplished without difficulty in an hour. Modane station 
is 1128 feet above St. Michel, so that on this easy portion of 
the line there is an average rise of 110 feet per mile, which is equal 
to a gradient of one in forty-eight ; an inclination sufficiently steep 
to bring an ordinary locomotive very nearly to a halt. 

Just after passing Modane station there is one of the steepest 
inclines on the line, and it seems preposterous to suppose that any 
train could ascend it. A stoppage of ten minutes is made at Modane, 
and on leaving that station, the train goes off at the hill with a rush. 
In a few yards its pace is reduced, and it comes down and down to 
about four miles an hour, which speed is usually maintained until 
the incline is passed, without a diminution of the steam-pressure. 
I say usually, because, if it should happen that there is not suffi- 
cient steam, or should the driver happen to make a slip, the train 
would most likely come back to Modane ; for, although the break- 
power on the train is much more than sufficient to prevent it 
running back, the driver could hardly start with the breaks on, and 
the train would inevitably run back if they were off. 

After this incline is passed, the line mounts by comparatively 
easy gradients towards Fort Lesseillon ; it is then at a great height 
above the Arc, and as one winds round the faces of the cliff out of 
which the Napoleon road was cut, looking down upon the foaming 
stream below, without a suspicion of a parapet between the rail- 
way and the edge of the precipice, one naturally thinks about 
what would happen if the engine should leave the rails. The 
speed, however, that is kept up at this part is very gentle, and 

* The inclination of the steepest part of Old Holborn Hill. — Roney's Rambles 
on Railways. 

chap. m. A STEEP RAILWAY. 51 

there is probably much less risk of an accident than there was in 
the days of diligences. 

The next remarkable point on this line is at Termignon. The 
valley turns somewhat abruptly to the east, and the course of the 
railway is not at first perceived. It makes a great bend to the left, 
then doubles back, and rises in a little more than a mile no less than 
three hundred and thirty-four feet. This is, perhaps, the most 
striking piece of the whole line. 

Lanslebourg station, 25 \ miles from, and 2220 feet above, St. 
Michel, is arrived at in two hours and a quarter from the latter 
place. The engines are now changed. Thus far we have been 
traversing the easy portion of the route, but here the heavy section 
begins. From Lanslebourg the line rises continuously to the sum- 
mit of the Mont Cenis pass, and accomplishes an ascent of 2240 
feet in six miles and a third of distance. 

It is curious and interesting to watch the ascent of the trains 
from Lanslebourg. The puffs of steam are seen rising above the 
trees, sometimes going in one direction, and sometimes directly the 
contrary, occasionally concealed by the covered ways — for over two 
miles out of the six the line is enclosed by planked sides and a 
corrugated iron roof to keep out the snow — and then coming out 
again into daylight. A halt for water has to be made about half- 
way up ; but the engines are able to start again, and to resume 
their rate of seven miles an hour, although the gradient is no less 
than one in fourteen and a half. The zigzags of the old Cenis road 
are well known as one of the most remarkable pieces of road- 
engineering in the Alps. The railway follows them, and runs 
parallel to the road on the outside throughout its entire distance, 
with the exception of the turns at the corners, where it is carried a 
little further out, to render the curves less sharp. Nevertheless 
they are sufficiently sharp (135 feet radius), and would be imprac- 
ticable without the centre rail. 

The run across the top of the pass, from the Summit station to 
the Grande Croix station — a distance of about five miles — is soon 




accomplished, and then the tremendous descent to Susa is com- 
menced. This, as seen from the engine, is little less than terrific. 
A large part of this section is covered in,* and the curves succeed 
one another in a manner unknown on any other line. From the 
outside the line looks more like a monstrous serpent than a railway. 


Inside one can see but a few yards ahead, the curves are so sharp, 
and the rails are nearly invisible. The engine vibrates, oscillates, 
and bounds ; it is a matter of difficulty to hold on. Then, on 
emerging into the open air, one looks down some three or four 
thousand feet of precipice and steep mountain-side. The next 
moment the engine turns suddenly to the left, and driver and 
stoker have to grip firmly to avoid being left behind ; the next, it 
turns as suddenly to the right ; the next there is an accession or 
diminution of speed, from a change in the gradient. An ordinary 
engine, moving at fifty miles an hour, with a train behind it, is not 
usually very steady, but its motion is a trifle compared with that 
of a Fell engine when running down hill. 

It may be supposed from this that travelling over the Fell rail- 

* On the Italian side there are about three-quarters of a mile of strongly-built 
avalanche galleries, and more than three miles of covered way. 




way is disagreeable rather than pleasant. It is not so ; the train 
is steady enough, and the carriages have remarkably little motion. 
Outside they resemble the cars on the Swiss and American lines ; 
they are entered at the end, and the seats are arranged omnibus- 
fashion, down the length of the carriage. Each carriage has a guard 
and two breaks, — an ordinary one, and a centre rail break ; the 
handles of these come close together to the platform at one end, 
and are easily worked by one man. The steadiness of the train is 
chiefly due to these centre rail breaks. The flat face A, and the 
corresponding one on the oppo- 
site side, are brought together 
against the two sides of the 
centre rail by the shaft B being 
turned, and they hold it as in 
a vice. This greatly diminishes 
the up-and-down motion, and 
renders oscillation almost im- 
possible. The steadiness of the train is still further maintained by 
pairs of flanged guide-wheels under each of the carriages, which, 
on a straight piece of line, barely touch the centre rail, but press 
upon it directly there is the least deviation towards either side * 
There is no occasion to use the other breaks when the centre rail 
breaks are on ; the wheels of the carriages are not stopped, but 
revolve freely, and consequently do not suffer the deterioration 
which would otherwise result. 

The steam is shut off, and the breaks are applied, a very few 
minutes after beginning the descent to Susa. The train might then 
run down for the entire distance by its own weight. In practice, 
it is difficult to apply the proper amount of retardation ; the breaks 
have frequently to be whistled off, and sometimes it is necessary to 


* The carriages are not coupled in the ordinary way, and although there are no 
buffers, properly speaking, and in spite the speed of the train being changed inces- 
santly, there is a freedom from the jarring which is so common on other lines. The 
reason is simply that the carriages arc coupled up tightly. 


steam down against them. Theoretically, this ought not of course 
to occur ; it only happens occasionally, and ordinarily the train 
goes down with the steam shut off, and with the centre rail breaks 
screwed up moderately. When an average train — that is, two or 
three carriages and a luggage- van — is running down at the maximum 
speed allowed (fifteen miles an hour), the breaks can pull it up dead 
within seventy yards. The pace is properly kept down to a low 
point in descending, and doing so, combined with the knowledge 
that the break-power can easily lessen it, will tend to make the 
public look favourably on what might otherwise be considered a 
dangerous innovation. The engines also are provided with the 
centre rail break, on a pattern somewhat different from those on 
the carriages, and the flat sides which press against the rails are 
renewed every journey. It is highly desirable that they should be, 
for a single run from Lanslebourg to Susa grinds a groove into them 
about three-eighths of an inch in depth. . 

Driving the trains over the summit section requires the most 
constant attention, and no small amount of nerve, and the drivers, 
who are all English, have well earned their money at the end of 
their run. Their opinion of the line was concisely and forcibly 
expressed to me by one of them in last August. " Yes, mister, 
they told us as how the line was very steep, but they didn't say 
that the engine would be on one curve, when the fourgon was on 
another, and the carriages was on a third. Them gradients, too, 
mister, they says they are one in twelve, but I think they are one 
in ten, at the least, and they didn't say as how we was to come down 
them in that snakewise fashion. It's worse than the G. I. P.,* 
mister ; there a fellow could jump off ; but here, in them covered 
ways, there ain't no place to jump to." 

The Fell railway is of the nature of an experimental line, and 

* The Great Indian Peninsula Railway, the line with the celebrated Bhore Ghaut 
incline, sixteen miles long, on an average gradient of one in forty-eight, which is said 
to have cost £800,000, or about double the entire cost of the Mount Cenis Railway, 
and six times its cost mile for mile, The Fell railway cost £8000 per mile. 


as such it is a success. It has reduced the time that was formerly 
occupied in passing from St. Michel to Susa by nearly one-half;* 
it has lessened the cost and increased the comfort to the passengers. 
The gauge (3 feet 7f inches) is a mistake, inasmuch as it loses time 
and causes trouble by the transference of the passengers, limits 
the power of the engines, and renders the rolling stock unfit for 
general use, should the line be pulled up, — which, according to the 
terms of the concession which was granted to the promoters, is to 
be done when the great tunnel of the Alps is open for traffic. 

The covered ways have been made too low, and the steam and 
smoke are driven down by the roof in an unpleasant manner.*!* 
If, however, the doors of the carriages are shut, but little incon- 
venience is experienced on this account. 

The engines are not anchored as firmly to the line as the 
carriages, and their motions are very violent. There is, too, a 
certain vibration in the working parts of their machinery, which 
indicates that they are not perfect. In ordinary locomotives the 
oscillatory movements which are acquired (even at moderate 
speeds) from the inequalities of the road, are less likely to cause 
injury to the machinery than the same motion is to the locomotives 
on the Fell railway. With the former a certain amount of lateral 
play is possible over the base of the engine, but in the latter case 
it is impossible when the horizontal wheels and breaks are gripping 
the centre rail. Many of the working parts of these locomotives 
must be subjected to sudden and violent strains, which do not 
occur to others on ordinary lines. 

The engines are admitted to be imperfect, and new ones are in 
course of construction. It is to be regretted there is a probability 
that the line will be pulled up at no very distant date,' as improve- 
ments are thus prevented from being carried out ; otherwise there 

* The trains take 5\ hours one way and 5| hours the other. These times are 
inclusive of an hour and a half of stoppages . 

f It is said that a number of railway directors were nearly suffocated on one of 
the early experimental trips, and that peremptory orders were given to remove 
portions of the roof. 


would be no doubt it might become a thoroughly practical and 
profitable one. Let us now turn to the great tunnel of the Alps, 
the completion of which is to be death to the Fell railway. 

When M. Medail of Bardonneche — thirty years ago — pointed 
out that a shorter tunnel could be constructed beneath the Alps 
between his village and Modane than at any other place in the 
Sardiuian States having a similar elevation above the level of the 
sea, neither he, nor any other person, had the least idea how the 
project could be executed. 

The first step was taken by the geologists Signor Sismonda and 
M. Elie de Beaumont. They pointed out, about twenty years ago, 
that calcareous schists and quartzite rocks would form a large pro- 
portion of the strata through which the tunnel would pass. It 
takes a miner one hour and a half to two hours to make an ordinary 
hole for blasting (28 inches deep) in the calcareous schist, and not 
less than eight hours to make one 20 inches deep in the quartzite.* 
When would the tunnel have been finished if the ordinary pro- 
cesses had been alone employed ? 

The ordinary processes were clearly unavailable. The tunnel 
would be not only of prodigious length,f but it would have to be 
constructed without shafts. At no place where a shaft would have 
been of any use would it have been possible to make one less than 
1000 feet deep ! If one had been made about midway between the 
two ends, it would have been no less than 5315 feet deep. "I 

* These are the times actually occupied in the tunnel. 

t The Mont Cenis Tunnel will be 13,364 yards long. The lengths of some of the 
better known tunnels in England are given below, for the sake of comparison. 
Shakespeare . (South-Eastern Railway) .... 1430 yards . 7 shafts. 
Kilsby . . (North- Western Railway) .... 2398 ,, .2 ,, 
Box . . . (Great Western Railway) .... 3123 ,, .11 ,, 
Woodhead . (Man., Sheffield, and Line. Railway) 5300 ,, . ? ,, 

The last-named is the longest railway tunnel in England. — Enc. Brit, Art. " Railways." 
The longest canal tunnel in England is the Marsden, on the Huddersfield Canal. — 
Roney's Rambles on Railways. 

chap. in. HISTORY OF THE TUNNEL. 57 

estimate," says M. Conte,* " that the sinking of a shaft a mile in 
depth would occupy not less than forty years. I do not know that 
a depth of 1000 feet has been hitherto passed." "f* 

" Several projects were presented to the Sardinian government, 
some proposing to shorten the length of the tunnel by raising its 
level, and others to accelerate the boring of the holes for blasting ; 
but they were all put aside as impossible, or as having been insuffi- 
ciently studied. The first one seriously considered by the govern- 
ment was that of M. Maus, a Belgian engineer. He proposed to 
construct a tunnel of 12,230 metres between Barclonneche and 
Modane, with a ruling gradient of 19 in 1000. The advance of the 
small gallery in front was to be made by means of a machine with 
chisels, put in motion by springs, that would have cut the rock into 
blocks — leaving them attached only at the back — which were after- 
wards to be brought down by means of wedges." 

"M. Colladon of Geneva suggested moving the tools of the 
machine of M. Maus by means of compressed air, but he neither 
pointed out the means of compressing the air, nor how it was to be 
applied as a motive power." 

" The government had constructed the railway from Turin to 
Genoa, and engineers were studying how to tug the trains up the 
incline at Busalla, which has a gradient of 1 in 29. MM. Grandis, 
Grattoni, and Sommeiller proposed to compress air by means of the 
' compresseur a choc,' which is now used on the works of the Cenis 
tunnel, and to employ it for the traction of the trains." 

"Mr. Bartlett, an English engineer on the Victor Emmanuel 
Eailway, J had invented a machine for making holes for blasting, 

* M. Conte, a well-known French engineer, was a member of a commission ap- 
pointed to examine the progress of this tunnel in 1863. His report is the most 
accurate and the most complete account of it that has been published. 

+ M. Conte refers to tunnel-shafts. 

."J: The Victor Emmanuel Railway Company has ceased to exist. The section in 
France is joined to the Paris, Lyons, and Mediterranean Eailway, and that in Italy 
to the Alta Ttalia system. The railway from the French mouth of the tunnel to St. 
Michel will be made at the cost of the Paris, Lyons, and Mediterranean Company. 



which was put in motion by steam. The machine was imperfect, 
and while experiments were being made with it (by means of com- 
pressed air), M. Sommeiller invented the boring-machine which is 
now used in the tunnel." 

" The problem then appeared to be solved. The inventors joined 
themselves to M. Eanco — who had taken part in their experiments 
on the Genoa Eailway — prepared a scheme, and presented it with 
confidence to the government, after having found out that they 
could compress air to a high pressure, that this air could be led 
from closed reservoirs and transmitted to great distances without a 
sensible diminution of its pressure, and that it could be employed 
to move the boring-machine which was intended to make the holes 
for blasting. A commission was appointed to examine the project, 
and its members satisfied themselves that the scheme was feasible. 
The Act of August 15, 1857, authorised the government to construct 
the section of the Victor Emmanuel Eailway between Susa and 
Modane. MM. Grandis, Grattoni, and Sommeiller, were appointed 
to direct the works." 

" M. Medail indicated the general direction of the tunnel be- 
tween Modane and Bardonneche. M. Maus drew his line a little 
more to the east, nearer to Modane. The engineers who direct the 
work have approached the latter course, and have selected that 
which seemed to them to be the shortest, the most easy to come out 
at, and, especially, the most convenient to lay out." 

" It is needless to insist on the importance of the tracing of the 
course of the tunnel. It was necessary — 1st, To establish upon the 
mountain a sufficient number of marks in order to determine the 
vertical plane passing through the axis of the gallery ; 2. To 
measure exactly the distance between the two mouths ; 3. To de- 
termine the difference of level between the two mouths, in order to 
arrange the gradients of the tunnel." 

" These delicate operations were entrusted to MM. Borelli and 
Copello. M. Grandis undertook the control of the work." 

" After the two mouths had been determined upon, they set out 

chap. in. TRACING ITS COURSE. 59 

from Fourneaux to trace a line in the supposed direction of Bar- 
donneche. This first line came out in the valley of Eochemolles at 
a point too far off from that fixed upon, but with its help a second 
line was drawn which came sufficiently near to the proposed entry. 
These lines were subsequently still further corrected. These opera- 
tions occupied the months of August and September 1857." 

" The observations were made with a theodolite which had been 
constructed with the greatest care, and which read to 10" on the 
vernier. The line has been verified several times by different ob- 
servers, and the results show that a straight line has been laid out. 
Supposing that the greatest error" (due to the instrument) " had 
been made, the deviation from the straight line would not amount 
to more than one foot. MM. Borelli and Copello make — personally 
— the observations for the direction and for the verification of the 
actual course of the tunnel, and we may imagine that they will not 
readily leave to others such delicate work, upon which the success of 
the enterprise depends. All the marks on the southern side, and the 
most important ones on the northern side, were fixed by the first 
days of October 1857; snowfalls and 'tourmentes' retarded the 
work, but it was nevertheless completed by the end of the month." 

"In 1858 the triangulations and levellings were undertaken, 
and they were terminated at the end of the year." 

" The trigonometrical work has for a base one of the sides of the 
triangles of the Etat Major, and upon it two sets of triangles have 
been constructed, one towards the southern and the other towards 
the northern side. The two systems are formed of twenty-eight 
triangles, and the number of angles measured is eighty-six. The 
majority of the angles have been repeated at least twenty times ; 
those of the principal triangles have been taken fifty times, and, of the 
small ones, at least ten times. The theodolite employed read to 5"." 

" One can hardly give an idea of the difficulties that the ob- 
servers have experienced in the course of their work. At heights 
like those from which they worked, meteorological changes occur 
with the greatest rapidity ; violent winds overturned their instru- 


ments, and mists or clouds concealed the points at the moments 
they wished to observe them. A single fact will give some notion 
of the nature of their work. Seven angles had to be measured from 
the summit of La Pelouse, 10,170 feet above the sea. The observers 
— who were lodged in the chalets of La Eionda, had to ascend to the 
summit for seven successive days, and it was seldom possible to 
measure two angles in the same day." 

" The importance of these observations is readily comprehended, 
and I have described them at some length, because they form the 
base of the enterprise. One thing is notable. It is the personal 
care that the engineers have taken. M. Grandis directed the trac- 
ing of the line, the triangulation, and the levellings ; he assisted at 
these operations ; he selected the bases and points at which ' signals' 
were to be placed ; and all was done under his eye by the engineers, 
Borelli, Copello, Mella, and Mondino." 

On account of the peculiar situation of the ends of the tunnel, 
two small, connecting, curved tunnels will have to be made. "The 
construction of these terminal curves is naturally neglected for the 
establishment of the two false mouths in the direction of the general 

" The length between the two false mouths is 12,220*00 metres. 
The entry on the side of Italy is at a height of 1335*38 „ 

France .. 1202*82 

Difference of level 132*56 

This difference of level is overcome by a gradient 
of 222 in 10,000, which rises from the French 
entry to the centre * . . . =135*64 

A gradient of 1 in 2000, which rises from the 

Italian entry to the centre* . . = 3 06 


: The summit will be a few feet higher than M. Conte states, the gradients having 
been increased since the commencement of the works. 

chap. m. THE WORKS. 61 

If a single gradient had ruled throughout, rising from the French 
to the Italian side, it would have been reduced to 217 in 20,000 ; 
but although this would have been of the greatest advantage in 
working the line, it would have added one more difficulty to the 
construction of the tunnel. There were enough difficulties without 
adding another." 

"It is, besides, evident that driving the tunnel to a summit 
doubles the chances of the two ends meeting, and negatives, to a 
certain extent, the possibilities of error from the two operations 
upon which the least dependence could be placed, — the triangula- 
tion and the levelling. Provided that the two axes are in the same 
direction, they must meet sooner or later ; whether this happens a 
few yards more to the north or to the south is of no importance." * 

At the commencement of the tunnel in 1857, there was no ac- 
commodation at either end for those employed on the works ; and 
for a long time both engineers and workmen had to submit to 
numerous privations. Eoads had to be made, and barracks to be 
erected ; one after another, houses and shops were added, and at 
the present time the tunnel-buildings alone form considerable 
villages at the two ends.i* 

The situations of the two mouths are essentially different from 
each other. That at Bardonneche comes out at the bottom of the 
valley of Eochemolles ; that at Fourneaux 300 feet above the Cenis 
road. At the latter end the debris has been shot out at the mouth 
down the mountain-side ; and, large as the tip (in the language of 

* Conte. Conferences faites a VEcole Imperiale des Ponts et Chaussees. 1864. 

+ It is sufficient to indicate those at Bardonneche only. The principal ones are : 
1. Close to the tunnel-mouth — lodgings for the miners, the principal storehouses, 
stables, forges for repairing the drills. 2. At Bardonneche, half-a-mile distant from 
the mouth — large barracks for the workmen ; six other buildings for workmen ; one 
house for other employees ; repairing-shops for the machinery ; storehouses ; a 
foundry ; the building containing the " compresseurs a choc," and the reservoirs for 
feeding the same ; a gasworks ; a building containing an infirmary, washhouses, etc. ; 
two buildings for "compresseurs a pompe;" one building for new reservoirs of 
compressed air ; a cantine and a porter's lodge. An enumeration of the buildings 
at Fourneaux (Modane) would be nearly a repetition of the above. 


navvies) undoubtedly is, it is difficult to believe one sees all the 
material that has been extracted from more than two miles and a 
half of tunnel. It is interesting as showing the greatest angle at 
which debris will stand. Its faces have, as nearly as possible, an 
angle of 45.° 

During four years the ordinary means of excavation were alone 
employed, and but 1300 yards were driven. In this time the 
machines were being constructed which were destined to supersede 
a large part of the manual labour ; at the beginning of 1861 they 
were sufficiently complete to be put to work, and in the summer of 
that year I went to Bardonneche to see them in operation .* 

The clocks of the Oulx had just struck twelve on the night of 
the 16th of August, as the diligence crawled into the village from 
Briancon, conveying a drunken driver, a still more intoxicated con- 
ducteur, and myself. The keeper of the inn at which we stopped 
declined to take me in, so I sought for repose in a neighbouring 
oath eld, and the next morning mightily astonished a native when I 
rose enveloped in my blanket-bag. He looked aghast for a moment 
at the apparition which seemed to spring out of the ground, and then 
turning round in a nervous, twitching manner, dropped his spade 
and fairly bolted, followed by hearty shouts of laughter. Bardon- 
neche — a little Alpine village whose situation is not unlike that of 
Zermatt, was about an hour distant. A strange banging noise could 
be heard a long way off, and a few minutes after my arrival, I stood 
in one of the shops by the side of the machine which was causing 
it, and by the side of M. Sommeiller, the inventor of the machine. 
They were experimenting with one of his famous " perforatrices," 
and a new form of boring-rod, upon a huge block of rock which 

" In the previous year I had visited Modane, and favoured by introductions from 
M. Ch. Lafitte, at that time President of the Victor Emmanuel Railway, had been 
shown all that there was to be seen. I visited Modane again recently, and, for the 
third time, went to the end of the advanced gallery. I have to thank M. Mella and 
Sig. Borelli, the directors of the works in 1861 at Modane and Bardonneche respec- 
tively, for their attention in 1860-1, and particularly Sign or Copello, the present di- 
rector at Modane, for the facilities given and for the information afforded by him. 

chap, in/ THE PERFORATRICES. 63 

was already riddled by more than a hundred holes, varying from 
one inch to four and a half in diameter. The perforatrice — a simple- 
looking cylinder fixed in a square frame, and connected with a few 
pipes and stop-cocks — was placed in a fresh position in front of 
the rock, and, at a sign from the engineer, was set in motion. A 
boring-rod darted out like a flash of lightning, went with a crash 
against a new part of the rock, chipped out several fragments at a 
blow, and withdrew as quickly as it had advanced. Bang, bang, it 
went again with the noise of a gong. In ten seconds the head of 
the borer had eaten itself a hole ; in a minute it had all but dis- 
appeared ; in twelve it had drilled a hole nearly a yard deep, as 
cleanly as a carpenter could in a piece of wood. The rod not only 
moved backwards and forwards, and advanced as the hole grew 
deeper, but turned gently round the whole time ; a jet of water, 
projected with great force, cooled the chisel, and washed out the 
chips. More air was turned on ; the sound of the blows could no 
longer be distinguished one from another, they made a continuous 
rattle, and the rate was increased from two hundred to no less than 
three hundred and forty strokes per minute, or about half as fast 
again as the motion of the piston-rod of an ordinary express loco- 
motive when going sixty miles an hour. 

The pipes are seen which conduct the compressed air for the 
working of these boring-machines on approaching the tunnel- 
mouths. They are eight inches in diameter, and are supported by 
pillars of masonry. As these pipes, outside the tunnel, are exjDosed 
to constant variations of temperature — sometimes to as much as 
54° Fahr. in a single day — it has been necessary to guard against 
their expansion and contraction. They have been fixed accordingly 
at stated intervals by means of iron rods, the lower ends of which 
are carried through the masonry and bolted to plates on the 
outside. The intermediate pipes are carried on rollers (d) on the 
tops of the pillars, and between each of the fixed points there is 
one pipe having an enlarged mouth — terminated by a cheek — 
which receives the end (a) of the ordinary pipe. A circular 





pipe of leather (c) is secured to the cheek by means of a metal 
washer, and, pressed down by the compressed air on the end 

of the ordinary pipe, 
makes the joint suffici- 
ently air-tight, although 
it does not hinder the 
advance or the retreat 
of the pipe. In the 
tunnel itself — where the 
temperature is not sub- 
ject to such fluctuations 
— these precautions are 
not necessary, and the 
pipes are carried along 
the walls, supported by 
brackets, as far as the end of the finished work. Through these 
pipes highly compressed air is conducted, and is delivered at the 
end of the " advanced gallery " where the boring-machines are at 
work, with only a slight diminution in its pressure, notwithstanding 
the escapes which occur at the joints. 

On entering the tunnel one is struck by its size. The Italians, 
with a magnificent disregard of expense, or from regard to the 
future, have constructed it not only with two pairs of rails,* but 
with a footpath on each side. From the rails to the crown of the 
arch its height is just 20 feet, and its width is 26 feet 6 inches. 
The next thing that is noticed is that it is almost everywhere lined 
with masonry ; a small fraction only of the rock is left unsupported. 
The stone that is used is not obtained from the tunnel itself, but 
is quarried several miles away, near to St. Michelt Not observed, 

* The lines which will connect it with existing railways are to be only single 

+ Here, and in the subsequent pages, the French side is alone referred to, unless 
it is otherwise specified ; but the description would serve almost equally for the 
Italian side. 





but nevertheless existing, is a covered way about 3 feet 4 inches 
high, and 4 feet wide, which is made in the floor of the tunnel 

between the rails ; it is 
in fact a tunnel within 
a tunnel. Originally its 
dimensions were less, 
and it was intended 
merely as a subway in 
which the pijies con- 
veying the compressed 
air might be placed, and 
as a drain ; it was found 
convenient to enlarge its 
size, and since that has 
been done, it lias — on 
at least one occasion — 
served a purpose for 
° i ,,?,,,, ',° , , , " , , , , 2 , ° which it was not origin- 

ally intended. On the 
15th of September 1863, a sudden fall of rock occurred, which killed 
several miners and imprisoned about sixty others who were at work 
in the advanced gallery. They were greatly alarmed, and expected 
to be starved ; but at last one of them remembered this subway, 
and they escaped by its means. Since that time the miners, 
knowing they have this exit, have troubled themselves very little 
about eboulements. 

The temperature of the tunnel remains tolerably uniform 
throughout the year, but it is much higher in some parts than it is 
in others. On the occasion of my last visit, the exterior tem- 
perature was 63|° Fahr. in the shade ; a mile from the entrance it 
was 65°, and the mouth looked like the sun on a misty November 
day. At two miles the thermometer showed 70°, the atmosphere 
had become foul, and the mouth was invisible. In two hundred and 
fifty paces more, it had risen to 75°, the tunnel was filled with dense 



clouds of smoke, the light of an ordinary miner's lamp could not 
be perceived at the distance of five or six yards, and respiration 
was difficult, for the atmosphere was vile. This was the end of 
the finished work : it is from hence that the air is drawn by the 
pumping-engines at the mouth, and it is hereabouts that all the 
foul vapours naturally accumulate and hang. The great vault 
was no longer overhead, but the way was reduced to a drift eight 
or nine feet wide and scarcely as much high, encumbered with 
waggons filled with debris, between which and the walls one could 
barely pass. In a hundred feet or so, we emerged — comparatively 
speaking — into a blaze of light. Two hundred greasy, smoky, but 
still light-giving lamps, hung from the walls. Drops of water 
flashed past them like gems. Two hundred men toiled at the en- 
largement of the gallery — bearded, grimy men, some on their backs, 
some on their sides, some working overhead, some half naked, some 
quite naked — all tapping laboriously at their mining-rods, and all 
perspiring profusely. The temperature had risen to 81 J .* The 
multitude of the lights, the crowd of men, and the obscurity of 
the smoke, help to make the tunnel look an immense size — in 
fact, at this part, it is sometimes but little less than 30 feet high 
and 35 feet wide ; for not merely has the rock to be removed at 
the top and sides, which is afterwards replaced by masonry, but it 
is occasionally excavated for an inverted arch, which is placed 
wherever it is necessary. 

The temperature is, as nearly as possible, the same at the roof 
of the gallery as it is on the floor ; for jets of compressed air are 
let off above. The work of the masons would otherwise be unen- 

There was a difference then of 18° between the temperature at 
the mouth and at the end of the finished work. In winter this 
amount would be trebled or quadrupled. How much of the in- 
crease is due to the lights, men, and horses, and how much to the 
natural temperature of the rock ? If the heat increased in the tunnel, 

* It is almost unnecessary to remark that no stout men are seen in the tunnel. 


yard by yard, in the same proportion as it does when descending into 
the earth, the temperature in its centre should be about 90° higher 
than at its mouth. Although it is known that the rate of increase 
is very much less than this, the actual rate is not known. I 
believe it is correct to say that not a single observation has been 
made upon the natural temperature of the rock since the tunnel 
has been commenced. Four-fifths of it are now driven. The oppor- 
tunity for observation has been lost ; for, apart from the cooling which 
must inevitably have taken place, almost the whole of the tunnel has 
been lined with masonry, and it is not to be expected that any 
person, or any body of persons, will incur the expense, even if they 
were permitted, of removing this, and then making the necessary 
holes. It is to be hoped that some observations will be made on the 
remaining portion, for similar opportunities are not likely to occur 
very frequently. 

About 2000 feet on the French side of the tunnel was under- 
going the processes of enlargement and completion in the summer 
of 1869 * In some places portions of the advanced gallery remained 
untouched, and then one came to caverns, such as have been described 
above. This section was being completed faster than the advanced 
gallery was being driven. It was pleasant to get away from it 
farther into the bowels of the mountain ; the heat became less, and 
the atmosphere more pure. The noise of the hammers died gra- 
dually away, and at last no sound whatever could be heard, except 
of our own footsteps and of water running in the subway. After a 
time the banging of the chisels could be distinguished which were 
at work on the front of the attack. Five hundred paces took us to 
them.f The ponderous frame, technically called "I'afTut," sup- 
ported nine of the machines known as " perforatrices ; " each per- 
forative propelled a boring-rod, and each boring-rod was striking 
the rock at the rate of 200 strokes per minute, with a force of 200 

* The monthly advances which are sometimes quoted in English newspapers refer 
to the advanced gallery, not to the finished work. 

t In addition to the 2000 feet of unfinished work mentioned above. 


pounds * The terrific din that these 1800 strokes per minute, given 
with such force, make in a rock-chamber that is only 8 ft. 3 in. 
high, and 9 ft. 2 \ in. wide, can hardly be imagined ; neither can 
an adequate idea be given of the admirable -manner in which the 
machines accomplish their work. In spite of the noise and the 
cramped position in which the men necessarily toil on account of 
the limited space, the work goes steadily forward day and night. 
Each man knows his part. The foremen direct by signs rather 
than by words ; the labourers guide the chisels ; the workmen 
regulate the supply of air ; the machinists are ready in case of 
accident ; slim boys, with long-nosed cans, oil the machinery. 
Order triumphs in the midst of apparent confusion. One sees now 
the results of years of perfecting and of practice. Things were 
very different at the beginning. Then, says M. Conte, " everything 
was new, not only to the workmen, but also to those who had the 
direction. . . . The work of perforation was commenced at 
Bardonneche on January 12, 1861, but for several days only a 
single perforatrice was in action, then a second was added, and by 
the 20th a certain amount of useful work had been done. On the 
26th the number of the perforatrices was increased to four, and by 
working eight hours per day, 10 or 12 holes were made about a 
yard in depth. On the 12th of February they had perfected about 
32 yards of the advanced gallery, which had been left unfinished, 
and then arrived at the front of the attack. The whole difficulty 
was there. The number of the machines was again increased, but 
during ten days there was little result. On the 22d February the 
works were suspended, in order to make alterations suggested by 
experience ; and it was recommenced on the 2d of March. During 
the first half of this month an advance of half-a-metre was accom- 
plished in two days, by working seven hours a-day ; but towards 
the end of the month the work had become more easy, and it was 
possible to perform the whole of the operation in a single day, and 
to obtain a daily advance of 18 inches to two feet." 

* The perforatrices are independent machines, and one can "be stopped or removed 
without arresting the progress of the others. 


" In April, the improvements introduced, and the practice 
acquired, caused better progress, and in the middle of the month 
the work of perforation was accomplished in eight or nine hours." 

" In the month of May, when nine perforatrices were at length 
at work, progress was stopped by exterior causes, and was sus- 
pended for two months." 

"From July to the 19th of August the work was continued, 
but only one attack per day was made, on account of there not 
being a sufficient number of instructed persons to carry on the 
work incessantly. Still it was carried on with regularity, and the 
advance was 28 inches to 3 feet per day. The perforation was 
generally accomplished in six hours." 

"From the 19th of August the work was continued day and 
night, but at first, in consequence of the inexperience of some of 
the employees, the depth of the holes had to be reduced to two 
feet, and that depth occupied them twelve hours. Little by little 
this fresh band of workmen became as skilful as the first, and at 
the end of two months the two attacks were carried on with regu- 
larity." * 

The best form of boring-rod for all kinds of rock, excepting such 
as are homogeneous, was hit upon in 1861, and it has been in use 
ever since. The head is in the form of a Z. For homogeneous 

* On the Italian side, in order to advance one metre : — 

96 holes, 36 inches deep, were bored. 
94^ lbs. of powder were consumed. 
210 metres of match. 
185 drills were used up. 

120 holes, each 30 to 32 inches in depth, 

had to be bored. 
110 lbs. of powder were consumed. 
200 metres of match. 
190 drills were put 7i07's cle combat. 

On the French side, in order to advance one metre :— - 

103 holes, 34 inches deep, were bored. 
125,j lbs. of powder were consumed. 
200 metres of match. 
158 drills were used up. 





rock, the ordinary form of chisel is found best. Almost all the 
details of the machinery, the size of the gallery, the dimensions 
and number of the holes, and the manner of firing them, have been 
changed since the beginning ; the general principles alone remain 
unaltered. The present system is as follows. A hole 4f inches in 
diameter is made to a depth of about a yard, towards the centre of 
the drift, but rather nearer to the floor than to the roof. Fifty to 
sixty holes, according to circumstances, of less diameter, but of 
about equal depth, are then driven into the remainder of the face. 


All the holes are then dried and cleaned by a jet of compressed 
air, the " afTut " is withdrawn behind strong iron-bound doors, and 
six of the small holes nearest to the large are charged and fired. 
The force of the explosion goes in the direction of least resistance, 
that is towards the central hole, and a breach is made such as is 
indicated in the longitudinal section by the thick dotted line. The 
remaining holes are then charged and fired in sets of six or eight 
at a time, those nearest to the breach being exploded first. This 
system has been found more economical than firing a larger number 




of shots at one time. The waggons are then advanced, and the 

debris is cleared away ; the two pairs of rails at the sides, shown 

in the cross section, are for wag- 

gonets, whose contents are afterwards 

transferred to large waggons. The 

" affut " is then again advanced. 

These operations are now repeated 

with unvarying regularity twice 

every day. 

The temperature at the working 
face of the advanced gallery is seldom 
higher than from 75° to 76°, and the 
atmosphere is as pure as can be de- 
sired, when the machines are at 
work."" This, it must be remem- 
bered, is notwithstanding the pre- 
sence of more than thirty men,t and 
almost as many lamps, in a space 
about nine feet wide, eight high, and 
fifty long. The comparative lowness of the temperature is of course 
due to the expansion of the compressed air. 

At the distance of a hundred and sixty paces, the sound of 
the machines could not be distinguished, and the atmosphere 
again gradually deteriorated as we approached the region which 
may, not improperly, be termed infernal. Once more we passed 
through the foul vapours and by the army of miners. Laborious 
as the work of these men undoubtedly is, it is lighter and far less 
dangerous than that of our coal-cutters. The heat, although it 
seems considerable to one coming from a lower temperature, is not 
excessive, and this may be inferred from seeing how few men 

* The temperature is raised to 80° or 86° after the mines are exploded. 

f 1 chef ; 4 machinists ; 2 master miners, who determine the direction of the 
holes ; 8 labourers, who guide the boring-rods ; 9 workmen, who look after the per- 
foratrices ; 5 boys ; 8 labourers ; 2 workmen, who keep up communication with the 
exterior, — in all, 39 persons. 

///w M^w<^m^^^' 



are unclothed. They work readily enough for their three francs 
a-day,* and take to their labour cheerfully ; very few skulkers 
can be seen in the Mont Cenis tunnel. The following table shows 
how small is the risk to life. 

Fatal Accidents which have occurred at the Great Tunnel op the Alps 
from the commencement of the works to August 1869 : — 

Inside the Tunnel. Outside the Tunnel. 

From falls of rock ... 8 Falls from heights ... 2 

Accidents from waggons . 14 Accidents from waggons . 4 

Premature explosions . . 3 — 25 Explosion of gunpowder . 5 — 11 

Total . 36 

It will be seen from this that one-half of the fatal accidents have 
arisen from men being run over by waggons. This has chiefly come 
from the impossibility of making the miners walk on the footways 
at the sides of the tunnel. They will walk. on the rails. The result 
is that they are not unfrequently killed, although the greatest pre- 
cautions are taken with the waggons descending with debris. The 
total is insignificant when one considers the number of men engaged 
and the length of time over which it is spread, and it compares 
favourably with almost any other enterprise of similar magnitude. 

The waggons laden with debris run down, on the French side, by 
their own weight, on account of the gradient, and so did the truck 
on which I descended with my guide — the courteous engineer who 
directs the works. Fresh relays of miners were entering, and those 
whom they relieved were coming out with their arms around each 
others' waists " in the manner of schoolboys and lovers." The air 
seemed chilly, although it was a bright summer day ; and our 
nostrils, for hours after leaving the tunnel, yielded such supplies of 
carbon as to suggest that the manufacture of compressed soot 
might be profitably added to the already numerous industries of 
the works. 

* The workmen in the advanced gallery receive five francs a-day, and a small 
honus per metre if they exceed a certain fixed distance. 




About four thousand men are now employed on the tunnel,* 
and they complete ten to eleven feet every day. The average daily 
progress of the last five years is ten feet one inch. Each yard of 
progress costs at the present time about £200, or just double the 
average of railway tunneling in England.t There are many yards, 
however, which have cost infinitely more than £200 per yard. The 
work is now so far advanced that the engineers can estimate with 
some probability what the total expenditure will amount to. They 
place it at £3,000,000 (£224 per yard), which sum includes 

* On the French side they are employed as follows (subdivisions are omitted for 
the sake of brevity) : — 

(1.) In the advanced gallery — 

' Ajusteurs ' . . . 

Miners .... 


Boys .... 

(2.) Enlargement by manual labour — 

Miners .... 

Labourers . . . 

Boys .... 

Masonry — 

Masons and dressers of stone 


Boys .... 

(3.) Manufactories, machinery, stores 

Smiths, joiners, fitters, etc. 


Boys .... 10 570 

(4.) Overseers, foremen, clerks, etc. .... 60 

(5.) Platelayers, transport of materials, etc. . . 180 










(exterior works)- 





Horse-power of machines — 

Hydraulic wheels ..... 480 
Ventilating machines . . . . 300 
Sundry ,, .... 80 

Total horse-power of machinery . 860 
Horses employed in clearing away debris 80 

t Encyclo. Brit. art. "Railways." 






the expense of the whole of the machinery and of the exterior 
works. This amount does not seem extravagant when we remem- 
ber that for every yard of advance, never less — and frequently more 
— than seventy cubic yards of rock have to be excavated, and to be 
carried away (at the present time) a distance of three miles ; that 
about twenty-five cubic yards of masonry have to be built, the stone 
for which is conveyed twelve miles in a mountainous country ; that 
all the machinery employed has been constructed and invented 
expressly for the tunnel, and that the creation of two small towns 
has been necessary. 

The strata which have been pierced agree very satisfactorily in 
their nature and in their thickness with the indications of the geolo- 


The engineers therefore believe that no greater difficulties 

will be encountered than those which have been overcome. Ee- 
markably little water has been met with : the miner's dreaded enemy 
seems to have fled before the engineer who has utilised its power. 
I have not entered into a description of the manner in which this 
has been accomplished, because it has been frequently done before ; 
but there is nothing more interesting in regard to the tunnel than 

* Table of the strata which have been pierced on the French side of the great 
tunnel of the Alps : — 

Thickness of the 



Strata in Metres. 

1. Debris and pebbles 

. fr 





2. Anthracitic schists 







3. Quartzite 







4. Anhydrite 






5. Compact calcareous 

rock , 






6. Talcose schists . 






7. Compact calcareous 

rock , 

, 2780-20 





8. Anhydrite 






9. Calcareous schists 






10. Anhydrite 






11. Calcareous schists 





12. Anhydrite 





13. Calcareous schist 


same as at Bardomi 

eche) , 





On the Rardonneche sid 

c the tunin 

•1 passes through 








the way in which the waste power of nature has been applied for 
the reduction of the difficulties of the undertaking. There is not a 
single steam-engine on the works : everything is done with com- 
pressed air, or by hydraulic power. 

Just one half of the tunnel was driven at the end of October 1866, 
after more than nine years of labour. The third quarter was finished 
by the end of 1868,* Unless extraordinary obstacles are encountered, 
the two ends will probably meet in February 1871 ;t but it will be 
long after that date before the tunnel will be used for traffic* 

* The advanced gallery only. 

f Table showing the Progress of the Advanced Gallery on each side, 
from the Commencement up to 1st November 1869. 






r 3 857 

| 1858 

J 1859 

] 1860 

I 1861 


f 1861 










in metres. 


27.28 ^1 
257.57 j 

j- 725.00 


}- 5337.40 

Total advance at 



in metres. 




^ 921.00 

Total of 
the two 

sides per 


}- 3407.00 


Total ad- ) 

vance at > 4328.00 

Modane. ) 

















y 8744.40 

Total ad- ) 

vance at V 10,390.40 

both ends ) 

Total length of the tunnel, 12,220 metres. 
Remained to be driven Nov. 1, 1869, 1829| metres. 

See Appendix for the progress of the work since this date. 

i The railways which will connect the tunnel with existing lines will be diffi- 
cult and costly works, with numerous tunnels and bridges. A good deal of the heavy 
work is done on the line between Susa and Bardonneche, but on the French side the 
works are almost untouched. 


Will the two ends meet ? The engineers are confident that 
they will. One important fact remains to be pointed out. The 
two sides have not advanced with equal rapidity. On the Italian 
side the summit is nearly gained — before these pages are published 
it will have been passed ; but on the French side they are nearly 
2000 yards short of it. The work is still to be carried on simul- 
taneously, and, consequently, on the Italian side they will shortly 
begin to descend. M. Conte mentioned * that one of the reasons 
which influenced the engineers to drive the tunnel to a summit, 
was, that by so doing, any error in the determination of its length, 
or in the levels, would be negatived. It was only necessary that 
the two ends should be driven in the same line, — they would be 
sure to meet sooner or later. This was on the supposition that the 
two gradients would be maintained until the two ends met. The 
whole of this advantage is going to be sacrificed. If there is any 
material error in the determination of the length or of the levels, 
the two ends may not meet. One has not to go farther than the 
summit of the Mont Cenis pass itself to show that errors may creep 
into trigonometrical work, even when it is conducted by distin- 
guished engineers. The height of that pass has been obtained by 
two independent surveys ; one, carried through Trance from the 
level of the sea, and the other carried through Italy from the level 
of the sea ; yet the Italians make the summit 59 feet higher than 
the Trench. 

"When the great tunnel of the Alps is completed, will it be a 
useless marvel ? or will locomotives be able to work in it ? Will 
the trains arrive at the ends with cargoes of asphyxiated passengers 
who will have to be revived with draughts of compressed air ? or 
will there be no trouble on account of ventilation ? It must not 
be argued that because it is impossible for locomotives to work in 
the tunnel at present, it will be impossible for them to work in it 
when it is completed. The temperatures of the two sides will fre- 
quently be different, and that alone will produce considerable 

* See p. 61. 

chap. in. VENTILATION. 77 

currents. The very passage of the trains will do a good deal. Be- 
sides this, there is already a large amount of ventilating power 
established at the two ends, and it can be kept in action at a small 
expense. I saw at the Fourneaux (Modane) mouth, on my last 
visit, the pumping-engines that had been set up about two years 
before. There were four cylinders, each 16 feet 4 inches in 
diameter, with a stroke of 6 feet 6 inches. Only two were at work, 
yet — at a distance of two miles from the mouth — they produced a 
very sensible current flowing into the tunnel, which was indicated 
by the miners' lamps that we carried. There is no reason to be 
afraid that the eminent engineer, who has hitherto shown himself 
equal to all the difficulties which have arisen, will be beaten by the 

M. Conte, at the conclusion of his pamphlet, pays a high tribute 
of praise to M. Sommeiller, and properly speaks of him as " the 
soul of the enterprise." " We may quote him as a model of 

courage and devotion If one may believe the companions of 

his youth, he followed the idea, which he now realises, at the time 
he was studying at the university of Turin. This idea he has 
never abandoned." Englishmen ought to be amongst the first to 
recognise his boldness and perseverance, although they have played 
no part in the execution of the tunnel.* It is the grandest con- 
ception of its kind, and when it is completed, it will be not only — 
in a double sense — one of the highways of Europe, but it will most 
likely become the high road to India. 

It is humiliating to compare the working of our coal-mines with 
the operations carried on in the great tunnel of the Alps. In the 
former we see the old, barbarous, wasteful methods still employed, 
with disregard of human life, and for the future. In the latter, 
mechanical power, skilfully applied, economises labour, and gives 
safety and comfort to those who are at work. The exhaustion of 

* The machinery has been principally made in Belgium ; the engineers are French 
and Italians, and the subordinates, for the most part, Piedmontese and French. 


our coal-fields, which recent inquiries have placed at a more distant 
date than was expected a few years ago, is a thing that is inevitable 
sooner or later. Actual exhaustion is not so much to be feared as 
inability to compete with foreign producers. The question is 
adjourned, but it will presently be forced upon public attention 
again. When it becomes too pressing to be neglected, then, 
possibly, there will be a chance of the condition of our miners 
being ameliorated ; but it is improbable so long as gigantic public 
subscriptions pay for the effects of private neglect, which actually 
tend to perpetuate what they are intended to cure, that the chief 
sinners will take proper action. When they take alarm, then per- 
haps there will be salvation for the pitmen. The fact that two 
hundred of their men lose their lives every year by fire-damp 
explosions will not move British pit-owners so readily as the disagree- 
able truth that the time is rapidly approaching when they will be 
unable to compete with foreign markets, unless they work with greater 
economy. We have heard times without number that miners are 
careless ; that they will smoke their pipes where they ought not ; 
that they will carry forbidden matches, or even break open their 
safety-lamps to get a light. It is useless to combat such habits by 
repressive enactments, and childish to talk of double-locking lamps 
because single-locked ones are found ineffectual. The more diffi- 
culty there is in obtaining a light, the more men will struggle to 
get one. The only way to prevent explosions is to render them 
impossible, and that can be accomplished, to a large extent at 
least, by better ventilation. Coal can be got more economically, 
and the ventilation can be improved, by the use of one and the 
same means. Steam machinery cannot be used in coal-pits for the 
same reason that it could not in the great tunnel of the Alps ; but 
machines moved by compressed air can. A machine for coal-cutting 
worked by compressed air was patented so long ago as 1861, and 
has been successfully at work in a pit in Yorkshire* for a long- 
time. Its action is an imitation of that of the miner's pick ; it cuts 

» The West Ardslev. 

chap. in. WASTE OF COAL. 79 

a narrow groove 3 ft. 9 in. deep along the bottom of the coal, which 
is afterwards broken down in the usual way. Three times more 
coal can be got by four men with it in a day than they can get 
without it. The waste of coal in the operation of holing is reduced 
by two-thirds. That is to say, if this machine could be used in all 
the pits in the kingdom, there would be an actual saving of 8,000,000 
to 9,000,000 tons of coal per annum ! There are other (hydraulic) 
coal-cutting machines at work in collieries in the north of England, 
which are equally economical, and which will, like Mr. Firth's 
machine, work narrow seams at a profit which it would not pay to 
work by hand ; but they do not possess the important ventilating 
power, which is one of its chief recommendations. The expansion 
of the air not only lowers the temperature, but it drives all the gas 
away from the working-face. That this is done is sufficiently 
proved by the fact that there has not been a single explosion at 
West Ardsley since the machine has been in use, although there 
were many minor ones before it was introduced. 

Who can say the condition of our coal-mines is satisfactory 
when such results are attainable ? Yet who can touch the evil ? 
The man who shall succeed in improving their ventilation will be a 
greater benefactor to his country than Sir Humphrey Davy, and 
will well deserve public reward ; although, perhaps, he will be more 
likely to incur unmerited odium. 



" What power must have been required to shatter and to sweep away the 
missing parts of this pyramid ; for we do not see it surrounded by heaps of frag- 
ments ; one only sees other peaks —themselves rooted to the ground — whose sides, 
equally rent, indicate an immense mass of debris, of which we do not see any trace 
in the neighbourhood. Doubtless this is that debris which, in the form of pebbles, 
boulders, and sand, fills our valleys and our plains." De Saussure. 

Two summits amongst those in the Alps which yet remained 
virgin had excited my admiration. One of these had been attacked 
numberless times by the best mountaineers without success ; the 
other, surrounded by traditional inaccessibility, was almost un- 
touched. These mountains were the Weisshorn and the Matter- 

After visiting the great tunnel of the Alps in 1861, 1 wandered 
for ten days in the neighbouring valleys, intending, presently, to 
attempt the ascent of these two peaks. Eumours were floating 
about that the former had been conquered, and that the latter was 
shortly to be attacked, and they were confirmed on arrival at 
Chatillon, at the entrance of the Val Tournanche. My interest in 
the Weisshorn abated, but it was raised to the highest pitch on 
hearing that Professor Tyndall was at Breil, and intending to try 
to crown his first victory by another and still greater one. 

Up to this time my experience with guides had not been 
fortunate, and I was inclined, improperly, to rate them at a low 
value. They represented to me pointers out of paths, and great 
consumers of meat and drink, but little more ; and, with the recol- 
lection of Mont Pelvoux, I should have greatly preferred the com- 

chap. iv. THE MATTERHORN. bi 

pany of a couple of my countrymen to any number of guides. In 
answer to inquiries at Chatillon, a series of men came forward, 
whose faces expressed malice, pride, envy, hatred, and roguery of 
every description, but who seemed to be destitute of all good 
qualities. The arrival of two gentlemen with a guide, who they 
represented was the embodiment of every virtue, and exactly the 
man for the Matterhorn, rendered it unnecessary to engage any of 
the others. My new guide in physique was a combination of 
Chang and Anak ; and although in acquiring him I did not obtain 
exactly what was wanted, his late employers did exactly what they 
wanted, for I obtained the responsibility, without knowledge, of 
paying his back fare, which must have been a relief at once to their 
minds and to their purses. 

When walking up towards Breil,* we inquired for another man 
of all the knowing ones, and they, with one voice, proclaimed that 
Jean-Antoine Carrel, of the village of Val Tournanche, was the cock 
of his valley. We sought, of course, for Carrel ; and found him a 
well-made, resolute-looking fellow, with a certain defiant air which 
was rather taking. Yes, he would go. Twenty francs a-day, what- 
ever was the result, was his price. I assented. But I must take 
his comrade. " Why so ?" Oh, it was absolutely impossible to 
get along without another man. As he said this an evil counte- 
nance came forth out of the darkness and proclaimed itself the 
comrade. I demurred, the negotiations broke off, and we went up 
to Breil. This place will be frequently mentioned in subsequent 
chapters, and was in full view of the extraordinary peak, the ascent 
of which we were about to attempt. 

It is unnecessary to enter into a minute description of the 
Matterhorn, after all that has been written about that famous 
mountain. Those by whom this book is likely to be read will 
know that that peak is nearly 15,000 feet high, and that it rises 
abruptly, by a series of cliffs which may properly be termed preci- 

* Frequently spelt Breuil. 


pices, a clear 5000 feet above the glaciers which surround its 
base. They will know too that it was the last great Alpine peak 
which remained unsealed, — less on account of the difficulty of doing 
so, than from the terror inspired by its invincible appearance. 
There seemed to be a cordon drawn around it, up to which one might 
go, but no farther. Within that invisible line gins and effreets 
were supposed to exist — the Wandering Jew and the spirits of the 
damned. The superstitious natives in the surrounding valleys 
(many of whom still firmly believe it to be not only the highest 
mountain in the Alps, but in the world) spoke of a ruined city on its 
summit wherein the spirits dwelt ; and if you laughed, they gravely 
shook their heads ; told you to look yourself to see the castles and 
the walls, and warned one against a rash approach, lest the infuriate 
demons from their impregnable heights might hurl down vengeance 
for one's derision. Such were the traditions of the natives. 
Stronger minds felt the influence of the wonderful form, and men 
who ordinarily spoke or wrote like rational beings, when they came 
under its power, seemed to quit their senses, and ranted, and 
rhapsodised, losing for a time all common forms of speech. Even 
the sober De Saussure was moved to enthusiasm when he saw the 
mountain, and — inspired by the spectacle — he anticipated the 
speculations of modern geologists, in the striking sentences which 
are placed at the head of this chapter. 

The Matterhorn looks equally imposing from whatever side it 
is seen ; it never seems commonplace ; and in this respect, and in 
regard to the impression it makes upon spectators, it stands almost 
alone amongst mountains. It lias no rivals in the Alps, and but 
few in the world. 

The seven or eight thousand feet which compose the actual 
peak have several well-marked ridges and numerous others* The 
most continuous is that which leads towards the north-east ; the 
summit is at its higher, and the little peak, called the Hornli, is at 
its lower end. Another one that is well pronounced descends from 

* Sec the map of the Matterhorn and its glaciers. 

SUMMIT (14780) 




SUMMIT (147S0) 






WHYMPER, .JULY 26, 1862 

WHYMPER, JOLY 19, 1862 

TYNOALL JULY 28, 1862 


TYNDALL, AUG. J20, 1830 

WHYMPER, AUG. 30, 1861 I 


( 10,899 FEET) 


the summit to the ridge called the Furgen Grat. The slope of the 
mountain that is between these two ridges will be referred to as 
the eastern face. A third, somewhat less continuous than the 
others, descends in a south-westerly direction, and the portion of 
the mountain that is seen from Breil is confined to that which is 
comprised between this and the second ridge. This section is not 
composed, like that between the first and second ridge, of one grand 
face ; but it is broken up into a series of huge precipices, spotted 
with snow-slopes, and streaked with snow-gullies. The other half 
of the mountain, facing the Z'Mutt glacier, is not capable of equally 
simple definition. There are precipices, apparent, but not actual ; 
there are precipices absolutely perpendicular ; there are precipices 
overhanging : there are glaciers, and there are hanging glaciers ; 
there are glaciers which tumble great seracs over greater cliffs, 
whose debris, subsequently consolidated, becomes glacier again : 
there are ridges split by the frost, and washed by the rain and 
melted snow into towers and spires : while, everywhere, there are 
ceaseless sounds of action, telling that the causes are still in opera- 
tion which have been at work since the world began ; reducing the 
mighty mass to atoms, and effecting its degradation. 

Most tourists obtain their first view of the mountain either 
from the valley of Zermatt, or from that of Tournanche. From the 
former direction the base of the mountain is seen at its narrowest, 
and its ridges and faces seem to be of prodigious steepness. The 
tourist toils up the valley, looking frequently for the great sight 
which is to reward his pains, without seeing it (for the mountain 
is first perceived in that direction about a mile to the north of 
Zermatt), when, all at once, as he turns a rocky corner of the path; 
it comes into view ; not, however, where it is expected ; the face 
has to be raised up to look at it ; it seems overhead. Although this is 
the impression, the fact is that the summit of the Matterhorn from 
this point makes an angle with the eye of less than 16°, while the 
Dom, from the same place, makes a larger angle, but is passed by 
unobserved. So little can dependence be placed on unaided vision. 


The view of the mountain from Breil, in the Val Toumanclie, 
is not less striking than that on the other side ; but, usually, it 
makes less impression, because the spectator grows accustomed 
to the sight while coming up or down the valley. From this 
direction the mountain is seen to be broken up into a series of 
pyramidal wedge-shaped masses ; on the other side it is remarkable 
for the large, unbroken extent of cliffs that it presents, and for the 
simplicity of its outline. It was natural to suppose that a way 
would more readily be found to the summit on a side thus broken 
up, than in any other direction. The eastern face, fronting Zermatt, 
seemed one smooth, impossible cliff, from summit to base ; the 
ghastly precipices which face the Z'Mutt glacier forbade any attempt 
in that direction. There remained only the side of Val Tournanche ; 
and it will be found that nearly all the earliest attempts to ascend 
the mountain were made on that side. 

The first efforts to ascend the Matterhorn of which I have heard, 
were made by the guides, or rather by the chasseurs, of Val Tour- 
nanche * These attempts were made in the years 1858-9, from the 
direction of Breil, and the highest point that was attained was about 
as far as the place which is now called the " Chimney " (cheminee), 
a height of about 12,650 feet. Those who were concerned in these 
expeditions were Jean-Antoine Carrel, Jean Jacques Carrel, Victor 
Carrel, the Abbe Gorret, and Gabrielle Maquignaz. I have been 
unable to obtain any further details about them. 

The next attempt was a remarkable one ; and of it, too, there 
is no published account. It was made by the Messrs. Alfred, 
Charles, and Sandbach Parker, of Liverpool, in July 1860. These 
gentlemen, without guides, endeavoured to storm the citadel by 
attacking its eastern facej" — that to which reference was just now 
made as a smooth, impracticable cliff. Mr. Sandbach Parker 

* There were no guides, properly speaking, in this valley at that time, with the 
exception of one or two Pessions and Pelissiers. 

t This face is that on the right hand of the large engraving which accom- 
panies this chapter. It is also represented, more prominently, in the engraving in 
Chapter xv. 


informs me that he and his brothers went along the ridge between 
the Hornli and the peak until they came to the point where the 
ascending angle is considerably increased. This place is marked 
on Dufour's map of Switzerland 3298 metres (10,820 feet). They 
were then obliged to bear a little to the left to get on to the face 
of the mountain, and, afterwards, they turned to the right, and 
ascended about 700 feet further, keeping as nearly as was 
practicable to the crest of the ridge, but, occasionally, bearing a 
little to the left — that is, more on to the face of the mountain. 
The brothers started from Zermatt, and did not sleep out. Clouds, 
a high wind, and want of time, were the causes which prevented 
these daring gentlemen from going further. Thus, their highest 
point was under 12,000 feet. 

The third attempt upon the mountain was made towards the 
end of August 1860, by Mr. Vaughan Hawkins,* from the side of 
the Val Tournanche. A vivid account of his expedition has been 
published by him in Vacation Tourists ,"f and it has been 
referred to several times by Professor Tyndall in the numerous 
papers he has contributed to Alpine literature. I will dismiss it, 
therefore, as briefly as possible. 

Mr. Hawkins had inspected the mountain in 1859, with the 
guide J. J. Bennen, and he had formed the opinion that the south- 
west ridge | would lead to the summit. He engaged J. Jacques 
Carrel, who was concerned in the first attempts, and, accompanied 
by Bennen (and by Professor Tyndall, whom he had invited to take 
part in the expedition), he started for the gap between the little 
and the great peak.§ 

* Mr. Hawkins was unaware that any attempts had been made before his own, 
and spoke of it as the first. f Macmillan, 1861. 

+ This ridge is seen on the left of the large engraving accompanying this 
chapter ; and if the reader consults this view, the explanatory outlines, and the 
maps, he will be able to form a fair idea of the points which were attained on this 
and on the subsequent attempts. 

§ Since this time the small peak has received the name Tete du Lion. The gap 
is now called the Col du Lion ; the glacier at its base, the Glacier du Lion ; and the 
gully which connects them, the Couloir du Lion. 




Bennen was a guide who was beginning to be talked about. 
During the chief part of his brief career he was in the service of 
Wellig, the landlord of the inn on the iEggischhorn, and was 
hired out by him to tourists. Although his experience was 
limited, he had acquired a good reputation ; and his book of 
certificates, which is lying before me,* shows that he was highly 
esteemed by his employers. A good-looking man, with courteous, 

J. J. BENNEN (1862). 

gentlemanly manners, skilful and bold, he might, by this time, 
have taken a front place amongst guides if he had only been 
endowed with more prudence. He perished miserably, in the 
spring of 1864, not far from his home, on a mountain called the 
Haut de Cry, in the Valais.f 

Mr. Hawkins' party, led by Bennen, climbed the rocks 
abutting against the Couloir du Lion, on its south side, and 
attained the Col du Lion, although not without difficulty. They 
then followed the south-west ridge, passed the place at which the 

* By the kindness of its owner, Mr. F. Tuckett. f See Appendix. 

chap. iv. MR. HAWKINS ATTEMPT IN 1860. 87 

earliest explorers had turned back (the Chimney),* and ascended 
about 300 feet more. Mr. Hawkins and J. J. Carrel then 
stopped, but Bennen and Professor Tyndall mounted a few 
feet higher. They retreated, however, in less than half-an-hour, 
finding that there was too little time ; and, descending to the 
Col by the same route as they had followed on the ascent, 
proceeded thence to Breil, down the Couloir instead of by the 
rocks. The point at which Mr. Hawkins stopped is easily 
identified from his description. Its height is 12,992 feet above 
the sea. I think that Bennen and Tyndall could not have 
ascended more than 50 or 60 feet beyond this in the few minutes 
they were absent from the others, as they were upon one of the 
most difficult parts of the mountain. This party therefore accom- 
plished an advance of about 350 or 400 feet. 

Mr. Hawkins did not, as far as I know, make another attempt ; 
and the next was made by the Messrs. Parker, in July 18G1. 
They again started from Zermatt ; followed the route they had 
struck out on the previous year, and got a little higher than 
before ; but they were defeated by want of time, shortly after- 
wards left Zermatt on account of bad weather, and did not again 
renew their attempts. Mr. Parker says — " In neither case did we 
go as high as we could. At the point where we turned we saw 
our way for a few hundred feet further ; but, beyond that, the 
difficulties seemed to increase." I am informed that both attempts 
should be considered as excursions undertaken with the view of 
ascertaining whether there was any encouragement to make a more 
deliberate attack on the north-east side. 

My guide and I arrived at Breil on the 28th of August 18G1, 
and we found that Professor Tyndall had been there a day or two 
before, but had done nothing. I had seen the mountain from 
nearly every direction, and it seemed, even to a novice like myself, 
far too much for a single day. I intended to sleep out upon it, as 

* A view of this place accompanies Chapter v. 


high as possible, and to attempt to reach the summit on the 
following clay. We endeavoured to induce another man to 
accompany us, but without success. Matthias zum Taugwald 
and other well-known guides were there at the time, but they 
declined to go on any account. A sturdy old fellow — Peter 
Taugwalder by name — said he would go ! His price ? " Two 
hundred francs." " What, whether we ascend or not ?" " Yes — 
nothing less." The end of the matter was, that all the men who 
were more or less capable showed a strong disinclination, or 
positively refused, to go (their disinclination being very much in 
proportion to their capacity), or else asked a prohibitive price. 
This, it may be said once for all, was the reason why so many 
futile attempts were made upon the Matterhorn. One first-rate 
guide after another was brought up to the mountain, and patted 
on the back, but all declined the business. The men who went 
had no heart in the matter, and took the first opportunity to turn 
back.* For they were, with the exception of one man, to whom 
reference will be made presently, universally impressed with the 
belief that the summit was entirely inaccessible. 

We resolved to go alone, but, anticipating a cold bivouac, begged 
the loan of a couple of blankets from the innkeeper. He refused 
them ; giving the curious reason, that we had bought a bottle of 
brandy at Val Tournanche, and had not bought any from him ! No 
brandy, no blankets, appeared to be his rule. We did not require 
them that night, as it was passed in the highest cow-shed in the 
valley, which is about an hour nearer to the mountain than is the 
hotel. The cowherds, worthy fellows, seldom troubled by tourists, 
hailed our company with delight, and did their best to make us 
comfortable ; brought out their little stores of simple food, and, as 
we sat with them round the great copper pot which hung over the 
fire, bade us in husky voice, but with honest intent, to beware of 
the perils of the haunted cliffs. When night was coming on, we 
saw, stealing up the hill-side, the forms of Jean-Antoine Carrel and 

* The guide Benncn must be excepted. 




the comrade. "Oh ho!" I said, "you have repented?" "Not at 
all; you deceive yourself." "Why then have you come here?" 
" Because we ourselves are going on the mountain to-morrow." 
" Oh, then it is not necessary to have more than three." " Not for 
us" I admired their pluck, and had a strong inclination to engage 
the pair ; but, finally, decided against it. The comrade turned out 
to be the J. J. Carrel who had been with Mr. Hawkins, and was 
nearly related to the other man. 


Both were bold mountaineers ; but Jean-Antoine was incom- 
parably the better man of the two, and he is the finest rock-climber 
I have ever seen. He was the only man who persistently refused 
to accept defeat, and who continued to believe, in spite of all dis- 
couragements, that the great mountain was not inaccessible, and 
that it could be ascended from the side of his native valley. 

The night wore away without any excitement, except from the 
fleas, a party of whom executed a spirited fandango on my cheek, 
to the sound of music produced on the drum of my ear, by one of 
their fellows beating with a wisp of hay. The two Carrels crept 



noiselessly out before daybreak, and went off. We did not leave 
until nearly seven o'clock, and followed them leisurely, leaving all 
our properties in the cow-shed ; sauntered over the gentian-studded 
slopes which intervene between the shed and the Glacier du Lion, 
left cows and their pastures behind, traversed the stony wastes, and 
arrived at the ice. Old, hard beds of snow lay on its right bank 
(our left hand), and we mounted over them on to the lower portion 
of the glacier with ease. But, as we ascended, crevasses became 
numerous, and we were at last brought to a halt by some which 
were of very large dimensions ; and, as our cutting powers were 
limited, we sought an easier route, and turned, naturally, to the 
lower rocks of the Tete du Lion, which overlook the glacier on its 
west. Some good scrambling took us in a short time on to the 
crest of the ridge which descends towards the south ; and thence, 
up to the level of the Col du Lion, there was a long natural stair- 
case, on which it was seldom necessary to use the hands. We 
dubbed the place " The Great Staircase." Then the cliffs of the 
Tete du Lion, which rise above the Couloir, had to be skirted. This 
part varies considerably in different seasons, and in 1861 we found 
it difficult ; for the fine steady weather of that year had reduced the 
snow-beds abutting against it to a lower level than usual, and the 
rocks which were left exposed at the junction of the snow with tile 
cliffs, had few ledges or cracks to which we could hold. But by 
half-past ten o'clock we stood on the Co], and looked down upon 
the magnificent basin out of which the Z'Mutt glacier flows. We 
decided to pass the night upon the Col, for we were charmed with 
the capabilities of the place, although it was one where liberties 
could not be taken. On one side a sheer wall overhung the 
Tiefenmatten glacier ; on the other, steep, glassy slopes of hard 
snow descended to the Glacier du Lion, furrowed by water and by 
falling stones ; on the north there was the great peak of the Mat- 
terhorn* and on the south the cliffs of the Tete du Lion, Throw 

* The engraving is made after a sketch taken from the rocks of the Matterhorn, 
just above the Col. 



a bottle down to the Tiefenmatten — no sound returns for more 
than a dozen seconds. 

* * * " how fearful 

And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eyes so low !" 


■/ i 

f < ; 




But no harm could come from that side. Neither could it from 
the other. Nor was it likely that it would from the Tete du Lion, 
for some jutting ledges conveniently overhung our proposed resting- 
place, We waited for a while, basked in the sunshine, and watched 


or listened to the Carrels, who were sometimes seen or heard, high 
above us, upon the ridge leading towards the summit ; and, leaving 
at mid-day, we descended to the cow-shed, packed up the tent and 
other properties, and returned to the Col, although heavily laden, 
before six o'clock. This tent was constructed on a pattern suggested 
by Mr. Francis Galton, and it was not a success. It looked very 
pretty when set up in London, but it proved thoroughly useless in 
the Alps. It was made of light canvas, and opened like a book ; 
had one end closed permanently and the other with flaps ; it was 
supported by two alpenstocks, and had the canvas sides prolonged 
so as to turn in underneath. Numerous cords were sewn to the 
lower edges, to which stones were to be attached ; but the main 
fastenings were by a cord which passed underneath the ridge and 
through iron rings screwed into the tops of the alpenstocks, and 
were secured by pegs. The wind, which playfully careered about 
the surrounding cliffs, was driven through our gap with the force 
of a blow-pipe ; the flaps of the tent would not keep down, the 
pegs would not stay in, and it exhibited so marked a desire to go 
to the top of the Dent Blanche, that we thought it prudent to take 
it down and to sit upon it. When night came on we wrapped our- 
selves in it, and made our camp as comfortable as the circumstances 
would allow. The silence was impressive. No living thing was 
near our solitary bivouac ; the Carrels had turned back and were 
out of hearing ; the stones had ceased to fall, and the trickling 
water to murmur — 

" The music of whose liquid lip 
Had been to us companionship, 
And, in our lonely life, had grown 
To have an almost human tone."* 

It was bitterly cold. Water froze hard in a bottle under my head. 
Not surprising, as we were actually on snow, and in a position 
where the slightest wind was at once felt. For a time we dozed, 
but about midnight there came from high aloft a tremendous 

* ,1. G. Whittier. 

chap. iv. LIGHT AND SHADE. 93 

explosion, followed, by a second of dead quiet. A great mass of 
rock had split off, and was descending towards us. My guide 
started up, wrung his hands, and exclaimed, " my God, we are 
lost ! " We heard it coming, mass after mass pouring over the 
precipices, bounding and rebounding from cliff to cliff, and the 
great rocks in advance smiting one another. They seemed to be 
close, although they were probably distant, but some small frag- 
ments, which dropped upon us at the same time from the ledges 
just above, added to the alarm, and my demoralised companion 
passed the remainder of the night in a state of shudder, ejaculating 
" terrible," and other adjectives. 

We put ourselves in motion at daybreak, and commenced the 
ascent of the south-west ridge. There was no more sauntering with 
hands in the pockets ; each step had to be earned by downright 
climbing. But it was the most pleasant kind of climbing. The 
rocks were fast and unencumbered with debris ; the cracks were 
good, although not numerous, and there was nothing to fear except 
from one's-self. So we thought, at least, and shouted to awake 
echoes from the cliffs. Ah ! there is no response. Not yet ; wait 
a while, everything here is .upon a superlative scale ; count a dozen, 
and then the echoes will return from the walls of the Dent d'Herens, 
miles away, in waves of pure and undefiled sound ; soft, musical, 
and sweet. Halt a moment to regard the view ! We overlook the 
Tete du Lion, and nothing except the Dent d'Herens, whose summit 
is still a thousand feet above us, stands in the way ; the ranges of 
the Graian Alps — an ocean of mountains — are seen at a glance, 
governed by their three great peaks, the Grivola, Grand Paradis, 
and Tour de St. Pierre. How soft, and yet how sharp, they look 
in the early morning ! The mid-day mists have not begun to rise ; 
nothing is obscured ; even the pointed Yiso, all but a hundred miles 
away, is perfectly defined. 

Turn to the east, and watch the sun's slanting rays coming 
across the Monte Eosa snow-fields. Look at the shadowed parts, 
and see how even they — radiant with reflected light — are more 


brilliant than man knows how to depict. See, how — even there — 
the gentle undulations give shadows within shadows ; and how — 
yet again — where falling stones or ice have left a track, there are 
shadows upon shadows, each with a light and a dark side, with 
infinite gradations of matchless tenderness. Then, note the sun- 
light as it steals noiselessly along, and reveals countless unsuspected 
forms ; — the delicate ripple-lines which mark the concealed crevasse, 
and the waves of drifted snow ; producing each minute more lights 
and fresh shadows ; sparkling on the edges and glittering on the 
ends of the icicles ; shining on the heights and illuminating the 
depths, until all is aglow, and the dazzled eye returns for relief to 
the sombre crags. 

Hardly an hour had passed since we left the Col before we 
arrived at the " Chimney." It proved to be the counterpart of the 
place to which reference has been made at p. 5 ; a smooth, straight 
slab of rock was fixed, at a considerable angle, between two others 
equally smooth * My companion essayed to go up, and, after 
crumpling his long body into many ridiculous positions, he said 
that he would not, for he could not, do it. With some little trouble 
I got up it unassisted, and then my guide tied himself on to the 
end of our rope, and I endeavoured to pull him up. But he was 
so awkward that he did little for himself, and so heavy that he 
proved too much for me, and after several attempts lie untied him- 
self, and quietly observed that he should go down. I told him he 
was a coward, and he mentioned his opinion of me. I requested 
him to go to Breil, and to say that he had left his " monsieur " on 
the mountain, and he turned to go ; whereupon I had to eat humble 
pie and ask him to come back ; for, although it was not very difficult 
to go up, and not at all dangerous with a man standing below, it 
was quite another thing to come down, as the lower edge overhung 
in a provoking manner. 

The day was perfect ; the sun was pouring down grateful 

' Mr. Hawkins referred to this place as one of excessive difficulty. He, however, 
found it coated with ice ; we found it free from ice. 

chap. iv. A COOL PROCEEDING. 95 

warmth ; the wind had fallen ; the way seemed clear, no insuper- 
able obstacle was in sight ; but what could one do alone ? I stood 
on the top, chafing under this unexpected contretemps, and remained 
for some time irresolute ; but as it became apparent that the Chim- 
ney was swept more frequently than was necessary (it was a 
natural channel for falling stones), I turned at last, descended with 
the assistance of my companion, and returned with him to Breil, 
where we arrived about mid-day. 

The Carrels did not show themselves, but we were told that 
they had not got to any great height,* and that the " comrade," 
who for convenience had taken off his shoes and tied them round 
his waist, had managed to let one of them slip, and had come down 
with a piece of cord fastened round his naked foot. Notwith- 
standing this, they had boldly glissaded clown the Couloir du Lion, 
J. J. Carrel having his shoeless foot tied up in a pocket handker- 

The Mattcrhorn was not assailed again in 1861. I left Breil 
with the conviction that it was little use for a single tourist to 
organise an attack upon it, so great was its influence on the morals 
of the guides, and persuaded that it was desirable at least two 
should go, to back each other when required : and departed with 
my guide -f- over the Col Theodule, longing, more than before, to 
make the ascent, and determined to return, if possible with a com- 
panion, to lay siege to the mountain until one or the other was 

* I learned afterwards from Jean-Antoine Carrel that they got considerably 
higher than upon their previous attempts, and about 250 or 300 feet higher than 
Professor Tyndall in 1860. In 1862 I saw the initials of J. A. Carrel cut on the 
rocks at the place where he and his comrade had turned back. 

t This man proved to be both willing and useful on lower ground, and voluntarily 
accompanied me a considerable distance out of his way, without fee or reward. 



* ' 'Tis a lesson you should heed, 

Try, try, try again. 

If at first you don't succeed, 

Try, try, try again. 
Then your courage should appear, 
For if you will persevere 
You will conquer, never fear. 
Try, try, try again." 


The year 1862 was still young, and the Matterhorn, clad in its 
wintry garb, bore but little resemblance to the Matterhorn of the 
summer, when a new force came to do battle with the mountain, 
from another direction. Mr. T. S. Kennedy of Leeds conceived the 
extraordinary idea that the peak might prove less impracticable in 
January than in June, and arrived at Zermatt in the former month 
to put his conception to the test. With stout Peter Perm and 
sturdy Peter Taugwalder he slept in the little chapel at the 
Schwarzensee, and on the next morning, like the Messrs. Parker, 
followed the ridge between the peak called Hornli and the great 
mountain. But they found that snow in winter obeyed the ordi- 
nary laws, and that the wind and frost were not less unkind than 
in summer. " The wind whirled up the snow and spiculae of ice 
into our faces like needles, and flat pieces of ice a foot in diameter, 
carried up from the glacier below, went flying past. Still no one 
seemed to like to be the first to give in, till a gust fiercer than usual 
forced us to shelter for a time behind a rock. Immediately it was 
tacitly understood that our expedition must now end ; but we 


determined to leave some memento of our visit, and, after descend- 
ing a considerable distance, we found a suitable place with loose 
stones of which to build a cairn. In half-an-hour a tower six feet 
high was erected ; a bottle, with the date, was placed inside, and 
we retreated as rapidly as possible."* This cairn was placed at the 
spot marked upon Dufour's Map of Switzerland 10,820 feet (3298 
metres), and the highest point attained by Mr. Kennedy was not, I 
imagine, more than two or three hundred feet above it. 

Shortly after this Professor Tyndall gave, in his little tract 
Mountaineering in 1861, an account of the reason why he had 
left Breil, in August 1861, without doing anything.")* It seems 
that he sent his guide Bennen to reconnoitre, and that the 
latter made the following report to his employer : — " Herr, I have 
examined the mountain carefully, and find it more difficult and 
dangerous than I had imagined. There is no place upon it where 
we could well pass the night. We might do so on yonder Col upon 
the snow, but there we should be almost frozen to death, and 
totally unfit for the work of the next day. On the rocks there is 
no ledge or cranny which could give us proper harbourage ; and 
starting from Breuil it is certainly impossible to reach the summit 
in a single day." " I was entirely taken aback," says Tyndall, 
" by this report. I felt like a man whose grip had given way, and 
who was dropping through the air. . . . Bennen was evidently 
dead against any attempt upon the mountain. ' We can, at all 
events, reach the lower of the two summits,' I remarked. ' Even 
that is difficult,' he replied ; ' but when you have reached it, what 
then ? The peak has neither name nor fame.' " j 

* Alpine Journal, 1863, p. 82. t See p. 87. 

X Mountaineering in 1861, pp. 86-7. Tyndall and Bennen were mistaken in 
supposing that the mountain has two summits ; it has only one. They seem to have 
been deceived by the appearance of that part of the south-west ridge which is called 
" the shoulder " (1'epaule), as seen from Breil. Viewed from that place, its southern 
end has certainly, through foreshortening, the semblance of a peak ; but when one 
regards it from the Col Theodule, or from any place in the same direction, the delu- 
sion is at once apparent. 


I was more surprised than discouraged by this report by Bennen. 
One half of his assertions I knew to be wrong. The Col to which 
he referred was the Col du Lion, upon which we had passed a night 
less than a week after he had spoken so authoritatively ; and I had 
seen a place not far below the " Chimney," — a place about 500 feet 
above the Col — where it seemed possible to construct a sleeping- 
place. Bennen's opinions seem to have undergone a complete 
change. In 1860 he is described as having been enthusiastic to 
make an attempt ; in 1861 he was dead against one. Nothing 
dismayed by this, my friend Mr. Eeginald Macdonald, our com- 
panion on the Pelvoux — to whom so much of our success had been 
due, agreed to join me in a renewed assault from the south ; and, 
although we failed to secure Melchior Anderegg and some other 
notable guides, we obtained two men of repute, namely, Johann 
zum Taugwald and Johann Kronig, of Zermatt. We met at that 
place early in July, but stormy weather prevented us even from 
crossing to the other side of the chain for some time. We crossed 
the Col Theodule on the 5th, but the weather was thoroughly 
unsettled — it was raining in the valleys, and snowing upon the 
mountains. Shortly before we gained the summit we were made 
extremely uncomfortable by hearing mysterious, rushing sounds, 
which sometimes seemed as if a sudden gust of wind was sweeping 
along the snow, and, at others, almost like the swishing of a long 
whip : yet the snow exhibited no signs of motion, and the air was 
perfectly calm. The dense, black storm-clouds made us momentarily 
expect that our bodies might be used as lightning-conductors, and 
we were well satisfied to get under shelter of the inn at Breil, with- 
out having submitted to any such experience * 

* The late Principal Forbes was similarly situated while crossing the same pass 
in 1842. He described the sounds as rustling, fizzing, and hissing. See his Travels 
in the Alps of Savoy, second ed., p. 323. Mr. R. Spence Watson experienced the 
same upon the upper part of the Aletsch glacier in July 1863, and he spoke of the 
sounds as singing or hissing. See the Athcnceum, Sept. 12, 1863. The respective 
parties seem to have been highly electrified on each occasion. Forbes says that his 


We had need of a porter, and, by the advice of our landlord, 
descended to the chalets of Breil in search of one Luc Meynet. We 
found his house a mean abode, encumbered with cheese-making 
apparatus, and tenanted only by some bright-eyed children ; but as 
they said that uncle Luc would soon be home, we waited at the 
door of the little chalet and watched for him. At last a speck was 
seen coming round the corner of the patch of pines below Breil, 
and then the children clapped their hands, dropped their toys, and 
ran eagerly forward to meet him. We saw an ungainly, wobbling 
figure stoop down and catch up the little ones, kiss them on each 
cheek, and put them into the empty panniers on each side of the 
mule, and then heard it come on carolling, as if this was not a world 
of woe : and yet the face of little Luc Meynet, the hunchback of 
Breil, bore traces of trouble and sorrow, and there was more than a 
touch of sadness in his voice when he said that he must look after 
his brother's children. All his difficulties were, however, at length 
overcome, and he agreed to join us to carry the tent. 

In the past winter I had turned my attention to tents, and 
that which we had brought with us was the result of experiments 
to devise one which should be sufficiently portable to be taken 
over the most difficult ground, and which should combine lightness 
with stability. Its base was just under six feet square, and a 
section perpendicular to its length was an equilateral triangle, the 
sides of which were six feet long. It was intended to accommodate 
four persons. It was supported by four ash poles, six feet and a 
half long, and one inch and a quarter thick, tapering to the top to 
an inch and an eighth ; these were shod with iron points. The 
order of proceeding in the construction of the tent was as follows : 
1 — Holes were drilled through the poles about ^.ve inches from their 
tops, for the insertion of two wrought-iron bolts, three inches long 

fingers "yielded a fizzing sound;" and Watson says that his "hair stood on end in an 
uncomfortable but very amusing manner," and that "the veil on the wide-awake of 
one of the party stood upright in the air ! " 




and one quarter of an inch thick. The bolts were then inserted, 

and the two pairs of poles were set out (and 
fixed up by a cord), to the proper dimensions. 
The roof was then put on. This was made of 
the rough, unbleached calico called forfar, 
which can be obtained in six-feet widths, 
and it was continued round for about two 
feet, on each side, on to the floor. The width 
of the material was the length of the tent, and seams were thus 
avoided in the roof. The forfar was sewn round each pole ; par- 

/ y 



ticular care being taken to avoid wrinkles, and to get the whole 
perfectly taut. The flooring was next put in and sewn down to the 
forfar. This was of the ordinary plaid mackintosh, about nine 
feet square ; the surplus three feet being continued up the sides to 


prevent draughts. It is as well to have two feet of this surplus on 
one side, and only one foot on the other ; the latter amount being 
sufficient for the side occupied by the feet. One end was then 
permanently closed by a triangular piece of forfar, which was sewn 
down to that which was already fixed. The other end was left 
open, and had two triangular flaps that overlapped each other, 
and which were fastened up when we were inside by pieces of tape. 
Lastly, the forfar was nailed down to the poles to prevent the tent 
getting out of shape. The cord which was used for climbing served 
for the tent ; it was passed over the crossed poles and underneath 
the ridge of the roof, and the two ends — one fore and the other 
aft — were easily secured to pieces of rock. Such a tent costs about 
four guineas, and its weight is about twenty-three pounds ; or, if 
the lightest kind of forfar is used, it need not exceed twenty 
pounds. When it was fastened up for transport it presented the 
appearance shown in the portrait of Meynet in Chapter XV., and 
it could be unrolled and set up by two persons in three minutes ; a 
point of no small importance during extreme weather. 

This tent is intended, and adapted, for camping out at high alti- 
tudes, or in cold climates. It is not pretended that it is perfectly 
waterproof, but it can be made so by the addition of mackintosh to 
the roof; and this increases the weight by only two and a half pounds. 
It is then fit for general use* It may be observed that the pattern 
of this tent is identical in all essential points with that arrived at 
(after great experience) by Sir Leopold M'Clintock for Arctic work, 
and frequent use by many persons, under varied conditions, has 
shown that the pattern is both practical and substantial, f 

* I have described this tent at length, as frequent application has been made to me 
for information on the subject. I would strongly recommend any person who wishes 
to have one for long-continued use, to have one made under his own eye, and to be 
particularly careful to test the poles. My experience goes to show that poles which 
(when supported upon their extremities) will bear a dead weight of 100 lbs. suspended 
from their centres, will stand any wind to which they are likely to be submitted. Ash is, 
perhaps, the best wood that can be selected : lancewood is equally good, but heavier. 

f It has been used, amongst others, by Messrs. FresMeld, Moore, and Tucker, in 
the Caucasus ; by the Rev. W. H. Hawker in Corsica ; and by myself in Greenland. 


Sunday, the 6th of July, was showery, and snow fell on the 
Matterhorn, but we started on the following morning with our three 
men, and pursued my route of the previous year. I was requested 
to direct the way, as none save myself had been on the mountain 
before ; but I did not distinguish myself on this occasion, and led 
my companions nearly to the top of the small peak before the mis- 
take was discovered. The party becoming rebellious, a little explor- 
ation was made towards our right, and we found that we were upon 
the top of the cliff overlooking the Col du Lion. The upper part of 
the small peak is of a very different character to the lower part ; the 
rocks are not so firm, and they are usually covered, or intermixed, 
with snow, and glazed with ice : the angle too is more severe. 
While descending a small snow-slope, to get on to the right track, 
Kronig slipped on a streak of ice, and went down at a fearful pace. 
Fortunately he kept on his legs, and, by a great effort, succeeded in 
stopping just before he arrived at some rocks that jutted through 
the snow, which would infallibly have knocked him over. When 
we rejoined him a few minutes later, we found that he was incapable 
of standing, much less of moving, with a face corpse-like in hue, 
and trembling violently. He remained in this condition for more 
than an hour, and the day was consequently far advanced before we 
arrived at our camping-place on the Col. Profiting by the experience 
of last year, we did not pitch the tent actually on the snow, but 
collected a quantity of debris from the neighbouring ledges, and after 
constructing a rough platform of the larger pieces, levelled the whole 
with the dirt and mud. 

Meynet had proved invaluable as a tent-bearer ; for — although 
his legs were more picturesque than symmetrical, and although he 
seemed to be built on principle with no two parts alike — his very 
deformities proved of service ; and we quickly found he had spirit 
of no common order, and that few peasants are more agreeable com- 
panions, or better climbers, than little Luc Meynet, the hunchback 
of Breil. He now showed himself not less serviceable as a scavenger, 
and humbly asked for gristly pieces of meat, rejected by the others, 
or for suspicious eggs ; and seemed to consider it a peculiar favour, 

chap. v. DENUDATION. 103 

if not a treat, to be permitted to drink the coffee-grounds. With 
the greatest contentment he took the worst place at the door of 
the tent, and did all the dirty work which was put upon him by 
the guides, as gratefully as a dog — who has been well beaten — will 
receive a stroke. 

A strong wind sprang up from the east during the night, and 
in the morning it was blowing almost a hurricane. The tent 
behaved nobly, and we remained under its shelter for several hours 
after the sun had risen, uncertain what it was best to do. A lull 
tempted us to move, but we had scarcely ascended a hundred feet 
before the storm burst upon us with increased fury. Advance or 
return was alike impossible ; the ridge was denuded of its debris ; 
and we clutched our hardest when we saw stones as big as a man's 
fist blown away horizontally into space. We dared not attempt to 
stand upright, and remained stationary, on all fours, glued, as it 
were, to the rocks. It was intensely cold, for the blast had swept 
along the main chain of the Pennine Alps, and across the great 
snow-fields around Monte Eosa. Our warmth and courage rapidly 
evaporated, and at the next lull we retreated to the tent ; having 
to halt several times even in that short distance. Taugwald and 
Kronig then declared that they had had enough, and refused to 
have anything more to do with the mountain. Meynet also in- 
formed us that he would be required down below for important 
cheese-making operations on the following day. It was therefore 
needful to return to Breil, and we arrived there at 2.30 p.m., ex- 
tremely chagrined at our complete defeat. 

Jean-Antoine Carrel, attracted by rumours, had come up to the 
inn during our absence, and after some negotiations agreed to 
accompany us, with one of his friends named Pession, on the first 
fine day. We thought ourselves fortunate ; for Carrel clearly con- 
sidered the mountain a kind of preserve, and regarded our late 
attempt as an act of poaching* The wind blew itself out during 

* A better feeling exists at the present time in the Val Tournanche in regard to 
strangers. In 1862 the jealousy of the natives towards their Swiss neighbours was 
oftentimes extremely amusing, although embarrassing. 


the night, and we started again, with these two men and a porter, 
at 8 a.m. on the 9th, with unexceptionable weather. Carrel pleased 
us by suggesting that we should camp even higher than before ; and 
we accordingly proceeded, without resting at the Col, until we 
overtopped the Tete du Lion. Near the foot of the " Chimney," a 
little below the crest of the ridge, and on its eastern side, we found 
a protected place ; and by building up from ledge to ledge (under 
the direction of our leader, who was a mason by profession), we at 
length constructed a platform of sufficient size and of considerable 
solidity. Its height was about 12,550 feet above the sea ; and it 
exists, I believe, at the present time * We then pushed on, as the 
day was very fine, and, after a short hour's scramble, got to the foot 
of the Great Tower upon the ridge (that is to say, to Mr. Hawkins' 
farthest point), and afterwards returned to our bivouac. We 
turned out again at 4 a.m., and at 5.15 started upwards once more, 
with fine weather and the thermometer at 28°. Carrel scrambled 
up the Chimney, and Macdonald and I after him. Pession's turn 
came, but when he arrived at the top he looked very ill, declared 
himself to be thoroughly incapable, and said that he must go back. 
We waited some time, but he did not get better, neither could we 
learn the nature of his illness. Carrel flatly refused to go on with 
us alone. We were helpless. Macdonald, ever the coolest of the 
cool, suggested that we should try what we could do without them ; 
but our better judgment prevailed, and, finally, we returned together 
to Breil. On the next day my friend started for London. 

Three times I had essayed the ascent of this mountain, and on 
each occasion had failed ignominiously. I had not advanced a 
yard beyond my predecessors. Up to the height of nearly 13,000 
feet there were no extraordinary difficulties ; the way so far might 
even become "a matter of amusement." Only 1800 feet remained ; 

* The heights given on the outlines of the Matterhorn, accompanying Chap, iv., on 
the geological section in the Appendix, and quoted throughout the book, are after 
the barometric (mercurial) measurements of Signor F. Giordano in 1866 and 1868. I 
have ventured to differ from him only in regard to the height of the second tent- 
platform, and have assigned to it a somewhat lower elevation than his estimate. 


but they were as yet untrodden, and might present the most for- 
midable obstacles. No man could expect to climb them by him- 
self. A morsel of rock only seven feet high might at any time 
defeat him, if it were perpendicular. Such a place might be pos- 
sible to two, or a bagatelle to three men. It was evident that a 
party should consist of three men at least. But where could the 
other two men be obtained ? Carrel was the only man who exhibited 
any enthusiasm in the matter ; and he, in 1861, had absolutely 
refused to go unless the party consisted of at least four persons. 
Want of men made the difficulty, not the mountain. 

The weather became bad again, so I went to Zermatt on the 
chance of picking up a man, and remained there during a week of 
storms* Not one of the good men, however, could be induced to 
come, and I returned to Breil on the 17th, hoping to combine 
the skill of Carrel with the willingness of Meynet on a new 
attempt, by the same route as before ; for the Hornli ridge, which 
I had examined in the meantime, seemed to be entirely imprac- 
ticable. Both men were inclined to go, but their ordinary occu- 
pations prevented them from starting at once, f 

My tent had been left rolled up at the second platform, and 
whilst waiting for the men it occurred to me that it might have 
been blown away during the late stormy weather ; so I started off 
on the 18th to see if this were so or not. The way was by this 
time familiar, and I mounted rapidly, astonishing the friendly 
herdsmen — who nodded recognition as I flitted past them and the 
cows — for I was alone, because no man was available. But more 
deliberation was necessary when the pastures were passed, and 
climbing began, for it was needful to mark each step, in case of mist, 
or surprise by night. It is one of the few things which can be said 
in favour of mountaineering alone (a practice which has little be- 
sides to commend it), that it awakens a man's faculties, and makes 
him observe. When one has no arms to help, and no head to guide 

* During this time making the ascent of Monte Rosa. 
f They were not guides by profession. 


liim except liis own, he must needs take note even of small things, 

for he cannot afford to throw away a chance ; and so it came to 

pass, upon my solitary scramble, when above the snow-line, and 

beyond the ordinary limits of flowering plants, when peering about 

noting angles and landmarks, that my eyes fell upon the tiny 

straggling plants — oftentimes a single flower on a single stalk — 

pioneers of vegetation, atoms of life in a world of desolation, which 

had found their way up — who can tell how ? — from far below, and 

were obtaining bare sustenance from the scanty soil in protected 

nooks ; and it gave a new interest to the well-known rocks to see 

what a gallant fight the survivors made (for many must have 

perished in the attempt) to ascend the great mountain. The 

Gentian, as one might have expected, was there, but it was run 

close by Saxifrages, and by Linaria alpina, and was beaten by 

Thlaspi rotundifoliuni, which latter plant was the highest I was 

able to secure, although it too was overtopped by a little white 

flower which I knew not, and was unable to reach* 

* Those which I collected were as follow : — Myosotis alpcstris, Gin. ; Veronica 
alpina, L. ; Linaria alpina, M. ; Gentiana Bavarica, L. ; Thlaspi rotund if olium, 
Gaud. ; Silenc acaulis L. (?) ; Potcntilla sp. ; Saxifraga sp. ; Saxifraga muscoides, 
Wulf. 1 am indebted for these names to Mr. William Carruthers of the British 
Museum. The plants ranged from about 10,500 to a little below 13,000 feet, and 
are the highest which I have seen anywhere in the Alps. Three times this number 
of species might be collected, I have no doubt, within these limits. I was not 
endeavouring to make a flora of the Matterhorn, but to obtain those plants which 
attained the greatest height. Very few lichens are seen on the higher parts of this 
mountain ; their rarity is due, doubtless, to the constant disintegration of the rocks, 
and the consequent exposure of fresh surfaces. Silenc acaulis was the highest plant 
found by De Saussure on his travels in the Alps. He mentions (§ 2018) that he 
found a tuft "near the place where I slept on my return (from the ascent of Mont 
Blanc), about 1780 toises (11,388 feet) above the level of the sea." 

Mr. William Mathews and Mr. Charles Packe, who have botanised respectively 
for many years in the Alps and Pyrenees, have favoured me with the names of the 
highest plants that they have obtained upon their excursions. Their lists, although 
not extensive, are interesting as showing the extreme limits attained by some of the 
hardiest of Alpine plants. Those mentioned by Mr. Mathews are — Campanula 
ccnisia (on the Grivola, 12,047 feet) ; Saxifraga bry&ides and Avdrosacc glacuilis 
(on the summits of Mont Emilius, 11,677, and the Ruitor, 11,480) ; Ranunculus 


The tent was safe, although snowed up ; and I turned to con- 
template the view, which, when seen alone and undisturbed, had 
all the strength and charm of complete novelty.* The highest 
peaks of the Pennine chain were in front — the Breithorn (13,685 
feet), the Lyskamm (14,889), and Monte Eosa (15,217) ; then, turn- 
ing to the right, the entire block of mountains which separated the 
Val Tournanche from the Val d'Ayas was seen at a glance, witli 
its dominating summit the Grand Tournalin (ll,155f). Behind 
were the ranges dividing the Val d'Ayas from the Valley of Gres- 
soney, backed by higher summits. More still to the right, the eye 
wandered down the entire length of the Val Tournanche, and then 
rested upon the Graian Alps with their innumerable peaks, and 
upon the isolated pyramid of Monte Viso (12,643) in the extreme 
distance. Next, still turning to the right, came the mountains 

glacialis, Armeria alpina, and Pyrethrum alpinum (on Monte Viso, from 10,000 to 
10,500 feet) ; Thlaspi rotundifolium, and Saxifraga MJtora (Monte Viso, about 
9500 feet) ; and Campanula rotundifolia (?), Artemisia spicata (Wulf.), Aronicum 
Doronicum, and Petrocallis Pyrcnaica (Col de Seylieres, 9247). 

Mr. Packe obtained, on or close to the summit of the Pic de Mulhahacen, Sierra 
Nevada, of Granada (11,600 to 11,700 feet), Papaver alpinum (var. Pyrcnaicum), 
Artemisia Nevadensis (used for giving the flavour to the Manzanilla sherry), Viola 
Nevadensis, Galium Pyrenaicum, Trisetum glaciale, Festuca Clementei, Saxifraga, 
Groznlandica (var. Mista), Erigeron alpinum (var. glaciale) and Arenaria tetra- 
quetra. On the Picacho de Veleta (11,440 feet), and on the Alcazaba (11,350), the 
same plants were obtained, with the exception of the first named. At a height of 
11,150 feet on these mountains he also collected Ptilotrichum purpureum, Lcpidium 
sty latum, and Biscutella saxatilis ; and, at 10,000 feet, Alyssum spicatum and Si- 
dcritis scordiodes. Mr. Packe mentions the following plants as occurring at 9000 
to 10,000 feet in the Pyrenees : — Cerastium latifolium, Draba Wahlenbcrgii, Hut- 
chinsia alpina, Linaria alpina, Oxyria reniformis, Ranunculus glacialis, Saxifraga 
nervosa, S. oppositifolia, S. Groznlandica, Statice Armeria, Veronica alpina. 

Information on the botany of the Val Tournanche is contained in the little pam- 
phlet by the Canon G. Carrel, entitled La Vallee de Valtorncnchc en 1867 ; and a list 
of the plants which have hitherto been collected on the glacier-surrounded ridge 
(Furgen Grat) connecting the Matterhorn with the Col Theodule, will be found in 
Dollfus-Ausset's Materiaux pour V etude des Glaciers, vol. viii. part first, 1868. 

* See the map of the valley of Zermatt, etc. ; that of the Valpelline, etc. ; and the 
general route map. 

t On the authority of Canon Carrel. 


intervening between the Val Tonrnanche and tlie Val Barthelemy : 
Mont Eonss (a round-topped snowy summit, wliich seems so import- 
ant from Breil, but which is in reality only a buttress of the higher 
mountain, the Chateau des Dames), had long ago sunk, and the eye 
passed over it, scarcely heeding its existence, to the Becca Salle (or, 
as it is printed on the map, Bee de Sale), — a miniature Matterhorn — 
and to other, and more important heights. Then the grand mass 
of the Dent d'Herens (13,714) stopped the way ; a noble mountain, 
encrusted on its northern slopes with enormous hanging glaciers, 
which broke away at mid-day in immense slices, and thundered 
down on to the Tiefenmatten glacier ; and lastly, most splendid of 
all, came the Dent Blanche (14,318), soaring above the basin of 
the great Z'Muttgletscher. Such a view is hardly to be matched 
in the Alps, and this view is very rarely seen, as I saw it, perfectly 

* I have already had occasion to mention the rapid changes which occur in the 
weather at considerable elevations in the Alps, and shall have to do so again in subse- 
quent chapters. No one can regret more than myself the variable weather which 
afflicts that otherwise delightful chain of mountains, or the necessity of speaking 
about it : its summits appear to enjoy more than their fair share of wind and 
tempests. Meteorological disturbances, it would seem, are by no means necessary 
accompaniments of high regions. There are some happy places which are said to be 
favoured with almost perpetual calm. Take the case of the Sierra Nevada of Cali- 
fornia, for example, which includes numerous summits from 13,000 to 15,000 feet. 
Mr. Whitney, of San Francisco, says (in his Guide-book to the Yosemite Valley, and the 
adjacent region), "At high altitudes, all through the mountains, the weather during 
the summer is almost always the finest possible for travelling. There are occasional 
storms in the high mountains ; but, in ordinary seasons, these are quite rare, and one 
of the greatest drawbacks to the pleasure of travelling in the Alps, the uncertainty of 
the weather, is here almost entirely wanting. " It is probable that a more thorough 
acquaintance with that region will modify this opinion ; for it must be admitted that 
it is very difficult to judge of the state of the atmosphere of great heights from the 
valleys, and it often occurs that a terrific storm is raging above when there is a dead 
calm below, at a distance perhaps of not more than three or four miles. A case of this 
kind is described in Chapter vii., and another may be mentioned here. At the very time 
that I was regarding the Dent Blanche from a height of 12,550 feet on the Matterhorn, 
Mr. T. S. Kennedy was engaged in making the first ascent of the former mountain, 
and he described his ascent in a very picturesque paper in the Alpine Journal (1863). 
I learn from it that he experienced severe weather. " The wind roared over our ridge, 

chap. v. A SOLITARY BIVOUAC. 109 

Time sped away unregarded, and the little birds which had built 
their nests on the neighbouring cliffs had begun to chirp their 
evening hymn before I thought of returning. Half mechanically I 
turned to the tent, unrolled it, and set it up ; it contained food 
enough for several days, and I resolved to stay over the night. I 
had started from Breil without provisions, or telling Favre — the 
innkeeper, who was accustomed to my erratic ways — where I was 
going. I returned to the view. The sun was setting, and its rosy 
rays, blending with the snowy blue, had thrown a pale, pure violet 
far as the eye could see ; the valleys were drowned in a purple 
gloom, while the summits shone with unnatural brightness : and as 
I sat in the door of the tent, and watched the twilight change to 
darkness, the earth seemed to become less earthy and almost sub- 
lime ; the world seemed dead, and I, its sole inhabitant. By and 
by, the moon as it rose brought the hills again into sight, and by 
a judicious repression of detail rendered the view yet more magni- 
ficent. Something in the_ south hung like a great glow-worm in the 
air ; it was too large for a star, and too steady for a meteor ; and it 
was long before I could realise the incredible fact that it was the 
moonlight glittering on the great snow-slope on the north side of 
Monte Viso, at a distance, as the crow flies, of 98 miles. Shiver- 
ing, at last I entered the tent and made my coffee. The night was 
passed comfortably, and the next morning, tempted by the brilliancy 
of the weather, I proceeded yet higher in search of another place for 
a platform. 

making fearfully wild music among the desolate crags. . . It rendered an ordinary 
voice inaudible," and "nothing at a distance greater than fifty yards could be seen 
at all. . . Thick mists and driving clouds of snow swept over and past us ;" the 
thermometer fell to 20° Fahr., and his companion's hair became amass of white icicles. 
Now, at this time, Mr. Kennedy was distant from me only four and a half miles. 
With me, and in my immediate neighbourhood, the air was perfectly calm, and the 
temperature was agreeably warm ; even during the night it fell only two or three 
degrees below freezing point. During most of the day the Dent Blanche was perfectly 
unclouded, though, for a time, light fleecy clouds were hovering about its upper 2000 
feet ; but no one would have supposed from appearances that my friend was experienc- 
ing a storm such as he has described. 


Solitary scrambling over a pretty wide area had shown me that 
a single individual is subjected to many difficulties which do not 

trouble a party of two or three men, 
and that the disadvantages of being 
alone are more felt while descending 
than during the ascent. In order 
to neutralise these inconveniences, I 
devised two little appliances, which 
were now brought into use for the 
first time. One was a claw — a kind of grapnel 
— about five inches long, made of shear steel, 
one-fifth of an inch thick. This was of use in difficult 
places where there was no hold within arm's length, but 
where there were cracks or ledges some distance higher. 
It could be stuck on the end of the alpenstock and dropped into 
such places, or, on extreme occasions, flung up until it attached itself 
to something. The edges that laid hold of the rocks were serrated, 
which tended to make them catch more readily : the other end had 
a ring to which a rope was fastened. It must not be understood 
that this was employed for hauling one's-self up for any great dis- 
tance, but that it was used in ascending, at the most, for only a few 
yards at a time. In descending, however, it could be prudently 
used for a greater distance at a time, as the claws could be planted 
firmly ; but it was necessary to keep the rope taut, and the pull 
constantly in the direction of the length of the implement, other- 
wise it had a tendency to slip away. The second device was 
merely a modification of a dodge practised by all climbers. It is 
frequently necessary for a single man (or for the last man of a party) 
during a descent, to make a loop in the end of his rope, which he 
passes over some rocks, and to come down holding the free end. 
The loop is then jerked off, and the process may be repeated. But 
as it sometimes happens that there are no rocks at hand which will 
allow a loose loop to be used, a slip-knot has to be resorted to, and 
the rope is drawn in tightly. Consequently it will occur that it is 




not possible to jerk the loop off, and the rope has to be cut and left 

behind. To prevent this, I had a wrought- 

iron ring (two and a quarter inches in dia- 
meter and three eighths of an inch thick) 

attached to one end of my rope, and a loop 

could be made in a moment by passing the 

other end of the rope through this ring, which 

of course slipped up and held tightly as I 

descended holding the free end. A strong 

piece of cord was also attached to the ring, 

and, on arriving at the bottom, this was 

pulled ; the ring slid back again, and the 

loop was whipped off readily. By means of 

these two simple appliances I was able to 

ascend and descend rocks, which otherwise 

would have been completely impassable. 

The combined weight of these two things amounted to less than 


It has been mentioned (p. 93) that the rocks of the south-west 
ridge are by no means difficult for some distance above the Col du 
Lion. This is true of the rocks up to the level of the Chimney, but 
they steepen when that is passed, and remaining smooth and with 
but few fractures, and still continuing to dip outwards, present some 
steps of a very uncertain kind, particularly when they are glazed with 
ice. At this point (just above the Chimney) the climber is obliged 
to follow the southern (or Breil) side of the ridge, but, in a few feet 
more, one must turn over to the northern (or Z'Mutt) side, where, 
in most years, nature kindly provides a snow-slope. When this is 
surmounted, one can again return to the crest of the ridge, and 
follow it, by easy rocks, to the foot of the Great Tower. This was 
the highest point attained by Mr. Hawkins in 1860, and it was 
also our highest on the 9th of July. 

This Great Tower is one of the most striking features of the ridge. 
It stands out like a turret at the angle of a castle. Behind it a 


battlemented wall leads upwards to the citadel* Seen from the 
Theodule pass, it looks only an insignificant pinnacle, but as one 
approaches it (on the ridge) so it seems to rise, and, when one is at 
its base, it completely conceals the upper parts of the mountain. 
I found here a suitable place for the tent ; which, although not so 
well protected as the second platform, possessed the advantage of 
being 300 feet higher up ; and fascinated by the wildness of the 
cliffs, and enticed by the perfection of the weather, I went on to see 
what was behind. 

The first step was a difficult one ; the ridge became diminished 
to the least possible width — it was hard to keep one's balance — and 
just where it was narrowest, a more than perpendicular mass barred 
the way. Nothing fairly within arm's reach could be laid hold of ; 
it was necessary to spring up, and then to haul one's-self over the 
sharp edge by sheer strength. Progression directly upwards was 
then impossible. Enormous and appalling precipices plunged 
down to the Tiefenmatten glacier on the left, but round the right- 
hand side it was just possible to go. One hindrance then succeeded 
another, and much time was consumed in seeking the way. I have 
a vivid recollection of a gully of more than usual perplexity at the 
side of the Great Tower, with minute ledges and steep walls ; of the 
ledges dwindling down and at last ceasing ; and of finding myself, 
with arms and legs divergent, fixed as if crucified, pressing against 
the rock, and feeling each rise and fall of my chest as I breathed ; 
of screwing my head round to look for hold, and not seeing any, and 
of jumping sideways on to the other side. 

'Tis vain to attempt to describe such places. Whether they are 
sketched with a light hand, or wrought out in laborious detail, one 
stands an equal chance of being misunderstood. Their enchant- 
ment to the climber arises from their calls on his faculties, in their 
demands on his strength, and on overcoming the impediments which 
they oppose to his skill. The non-mountaineering reader cannot 

: See the engraving " Crags of the Matterhorn," which accompanies Chap. vii. 


feel this, and his interest in descriptions of such places is usually 
very small, unless he supposes that the situations are perilous. 
They are not necessarily perilous, but I think it is impossible to 
avoid giving such an impression if the difficulties are particularly 
insisted upon. 

A painstaking writer is therefore liable to be misunderstood in 
at least two ways. If he skips the difficulties, fearing, perhaps, to 
be charged with tediousness, he lays himself open to the imputation 
of being unobservant, or simply stupid ; or, if he chronicles each 
step, and works out each difficulty, he is exposed to the risk of being 
accused either of frightful exaggeration, or of getting into utterly 
unjustifiable situations. I do not wish to be charged with one or 
the other of these things, and shall therefore explain myself more 

Places such as this gully have their charm, so long as a man feels 
that the difficulties are within his power ; but their enchantment 
vanishes directly they are too much for him, and when he feels 
this they are dangerous to him. The line which separates the 
difficult from the dangerous is sometimes a very shadowy, but it is 
not an imaginary, one. It is a true line, without breadth. It is 
often easy to pass and very hard to see. It is sometimes passed 
unconsciously, and the consciousness that it has been passed is 
felt too late ; but so long as a man undertakes that which is well 
within his power, he is not likely to pass this line, or, consequently, 
to get into any great danger, although he may meet with consider- 
able difficulty. That which is within a man's power varies, of 
course, according to time, place, and circumstance, but, as a rule, 
he can tell pretty well when he is arriving at the end of his tether ; 
and it seems to me, although it is difficult to determine for another, 
even approximately, the limits to which it is prudent for him to 
go, that it is tolerably easy to do so for one's-self. But (according 
to my opinion) if the doubtful line is crossed consciously, deliber- 
ately, one passes from doing that which is justifiable to doing that 
which is unjustifiable, because it is imprudent. 



I expect that any intelligent critic will inquire, " But do you 
really mean to assert that dangers in mountaineering arise only 
from superlative difficulty ; and that the perfect mountaineer does 
not run any risks ?" I am not prepared to go quite so far as this, 
although there is only one risk to which the scrambler on the 
Higher Alps is unavoidably subject, which does not occur to pedes- 
trians in London's streets. This arises from falling rocks, and I 
shall endeavour, in the course of this volume, to make the reader 
understand that it is a positive danger, and one against which skill, 
strength, and courage, are equally unavailing. It occurs at unex- 
pected times, and may occur in almost any place. The critic may 
retort, " Your admission of this one danger destroys all the rest of 
the argument." I agree with him that it would do so if it were a 
grave risk to life. But although it is a real danger, it is not a very 
serious risk. Not many cases can be quoted of accidents which 
have happened through falling stones, and I do. not know an in- 
stance of life having been lost in this way in the High Alps* I 
suppose, however, few persons will maintain that it is unjustifiable 
to do anything, for sport or otherwise, so long as any risk is 
incurred ; else it would be unjustifiable to cross Fleet Street at 
mid-day. If it were one's bounden duty to avoid every risk, we 
should have to pass our lives indoors. I conceive that the pleasures 
of mountaineering outweigh the risks arising from this particular 
cause, and that the practice will not be vetoed on its account. 
Still, I wish to stamp it as a positive danger, and as one which may 
imperil the life of the most perfect mountaineer. 

There is, then, only one positive danger in mountaineering, and 
that is little risk. There are, however, numerous negative dangers 
through which many lose their lives. The words positive and 
negative are used in the following sense. A positive danger is one 
which we are powerless to avoid, and a negative danger is one which 

* The contrary is the case in regard to the Lower Alps. Amongst others, the case 
may be mentioned of a lady who (not very long ago) had her skull fractured while 
sitting at the base of the Mer de Glace. 

chap. v. ON FOOLHARDINESS. 115 

requires action on our part to convert it into a positive one. A pre- 
cipice is a negative danger, but it is a positive one to a man who falls 
over it : a steep snow-slope of new snow has dangerous qualities, but 
it is not positively dangerous until its equilibrium is disturbed, and 
it descends as an avalanche : the piled-up blocks on a shattered 
ridge may be dangerous, but they are not so until they are dis- 
lodged : and a concealed crevasse may be perilous to the last de- 
gree, but it is not so unless you tumble into it. This distinction is 
not hair-splitting, and it is essential to remember it, if one would 
come to a clear understanding about that which is right and wrong 
in mountaineering. If it were impossible to avoid tumbling into 
crevasses, or dislodging vast masses of debris, or starting avalanches, 
or falling over precipices, mountaineering, for the sake of sport, 
would be entirely unjustifiable ; and, according to the principles 
already laid down, it is unjustifiable if, through incompetence or 
recklessness, any one converts these negative slumbering dangers 
into active and positive ones. 

It may be remarked parenthetically that the term foolhardiness 
is frequently used rather loosely in regard to accidents which occur 
in the Alps. The mere fact that a man loses his life, or sus- 
tains injury, whether it be on the mountains or elsewhere, is no 
proof that he was foolhardy ; and upon reviewing those accidents 
which have happened in late years, it seems to me that to the 
major part the word is inapplicable. If anything is undertaken 
for sport which there is good reason to suppose must fail, or will 
probably be fatal to life, that may be considered foolhardy. But if 
the unavoidable risks are almost inappreciable, and that which is 
undertaken is not clearly beyond the powers of those who under- 
take it, it seems to me that the use of this word is not advisable, 
even although a fatal accident should happen. A slip which arises 
from a momentary indiscretion, or an accident the consequence of 
exhaustion, should hardly be classed amongst those fatalities which 
are the direct results of imprudences that are entirely unjustifiable ; 
and it cannot be denied that accidents have happened for which no 
excuses can be offered. 


The most capable men agree that there are two species of fool- 
hardiness which merit emphatic condemnation. The first is attempt- 
ing to traverse the upper (snow-covered) portions of glaciers without 
using a rope, and the second is ignoring the instability of new snow. 
Lives are lost every year through one or the other of these imbe- 
cilities. In each case the dangers are perfectly well known, and 
the results may be predicted with tolerable certainty. A man 
who attempts to traverse the upper parts of glaciers by himself, 
or with others, unroped, does not necessarily take harm on the 
first attempt, but if he perseveres he is certain to come to grief 
sooner or later. He may go on with impunity for a considerable 
time, or he may perish on the first attempt ; but, whatever may be 
the case, he is foolhardy, because he incurs a risk which can only 
be incurred by the neglect of the simplest of precautions. In the 
second case one cannot, unfortunately, speak with the same pre- 
cision, because there are three elements involved, all of which are 
subject to continual variation. The first is the quality of the snow, 
the second is its quantity, and the third is the angle at which it 
reposes. Still it is not very difficult in practice to determine when 
a new fall of snow is dangerous to traverse or not. Tor example, 
it may be laid down as a general rule that it is imprudent to 
meddle with any slope exceeding thirty degrees for several days 
after a heavy fall. It is equally certain that slopes considerably 
exceeding this angle are traversed, or attempted to be crossed, 
every year, by incompetent persons, within twenty-four hours of 
heavy falls. 

It may be questioned whether those who commit these im- 
prudences consider they are endangering their lives. In some 
cases such things have probably been done from mere ignorance, 
but in others the clamour and protestations against departure have 
at least taken it out of the power of those concerned to say that 
they were unaware of the opinion of those who were the most fit 
judges. "Whether such things are done from ignorance or from 
conceit, it is not unfair to class them as acts of foolhardiness. 

chap. v. ON A CGIDENTS. 1 1 7 

Three possible causes of accidents have now been mentioned. 
From the first there is small risk, but unavoidable danger so long 
as mountaineering is practised ; from the others there may be great 
risks, but they are easily avoided by the exercise of a little common 
sense. The largest part of the accidents, however, which occur 
in the Alps cannot be classed under these heads, but arise chiefly 
from momentary indiscretions, and from men trying to do that 
which is beyond their powers. It is not easy to find two cases 
exactly alike, although they principally come from the difficulty 
man experiences in keeping on his feet in slippery places. They 
come not from any dangers inherent to mountains, but from the 
frailties of the mountaineer. A volume might be filled with 
examples, and they would all be found to show that if this had 
been done, or that had not been done, the results would not have 
happened. In many cases some canon of mountaineering will be 
found to have been violated, and in all, the man rather than the 
mountain will be found to have been the offender. 

I have now endeavoured to discriminate between that which is 
merely difficult and that which is absolutely dangerous ; secondly, 
to distinguish unavoidable from avoidable dangers ; and thirdly, to 
make a rough classification of the causes of accidents. If that which 
has been said is true, it follows that the dangers from the Alps them- 
selves have been ridiculously overrated, and that the thing to be 
wished for is, not that the mountains should become easier, but 
that men should become wiser and stronger. It is too much to 
expect, however, so long as tyros attempt to imitate the doings of 
skilled mountaineers, and middle-aged gentlemen, with stiff knees, 
essay the things which are adapted only to the young and active, 
that accidents in the Alps will cease, or even diminish in number ; 
and, although these too daring persons should, perhaps, be pitied 
rather than censured, it is very much to be desired that they would 
pay a little more attention to the truth " That which is sport to 
one may be death to another," instead of applying to themselves 
the maxim " What man has done man can do." 


This long digression has been caused by an innocent gully 
which I feared the reader might think was dangerous. It was an 
untrodden vestibule which led to a scene so wild that even the 
most sober description of it must seem an exaggeration. There was 
a change in the quality of the rock, and there was a change in the 
appearance of the ridge. The rocks (talcose gneiss) below this spot 
were singularly firm ; it was rarely necessary to test one's hold ; 
the way led over the living rock, and not up rent-off fragments. 
But here, all was decay and ruin. The crest of the ridge was 
shattered and cleft, and the feet sank in the chips which had drifted 
down ; while above, huge blocks, hacked and carved by the hand of 
time, nodded to the sky, looking like the grave-stones of giants. 
Out of curiosity I wandered to a notch in the ridge, between two 
tottering piles of immense masses, which seemed to need but a few 
pounds on one or the other side to make them fall ; so nicely poised 
that they would literally have rocked in the wind, for they were 
put in motion by a touch ; and based on support so frail that I 
wondered they did not collapse before my eyes. In the whole 
range of my Alpine experience I have seen nothing more striking 
than this desolate, ruined, and shattered ridge at the back of the 
Great Tower. I have seen stranger shapes, — rocks which mimic the 
human form, with monstrous leering faces — and isolated pinnacles, 
sharper and greater than any here ; but I have never seen exhibited 
so impressively the tremendous effects which may be produced by 
frost, and by the long-continued action of forces whose individual 
effects are imperceptible. 

It is needless to say that it is impossible to climb by the crest 
of the ridge at this part ; still one is compelled to keep near to it, 
for there is no other way. Generally speaking, the angles on the 
Matterhorn are too steep to allow the formation of considerable 
beds of snow, but here there is a corner which permits it to accumu- 
late, and it is turned to gratefully, for, by its assistance, one can 
ascend four times as rapidly as upon the rocks. 

The Tower was now almost out of sight, and I looked over 



chap. v. THE CAUSE. 119 

the central Pennine Alps to the Grand Combin, and to the chain of 
Mont Blanc. My neighbour, the Dent d'Herens, still rose above 
me, although but slightly, and the height which had been attained 
could be measured by its help. So far, I had no doubts about my 
capacity to descend that which had been ascended ; but, in a short 
time, on looking ahead, I saw that the cliffs steepened, and I turned 
back (without pushing on to them, and getting into inextricable 
difficulties), exulting in the thought that they would be passed 
when we returned together, and that I had, without assistance, got 
nearly to the height of the Dent d'Herens, and considerably higher 
than any one had been before.* My exultation was a little pre- 

About 5 p.m. I left the tent again, and thought myself as good 
as at Breil. The friendly rope and claw had done good service, and 
had smoothened all the difficulties. I lowered myself through the 
Chimney, however, by making a fixture of the rope, which I then 
cut off, and left behind, as there was enough and to spare. My axe 
had proved a great nuisance in coming down, and I left it in the 
tent. It was not attached to the baton, but was a separate affair, 
— an old navy boarding-axe. While cutting up the different snow- 
beds on the ascent, the baton trailed behind fastened to the rope ; 
and, when climbing, the axe was carried behind, run through the 
rope tied round my waist, and was sufficiently out of the way ; but 
in descending, when coming down face outwards (as is always best 
where it is possible), the head or the handle of the weapon caught 
frequently against the rocks, and several times nearly upset me. 
So, out of laziness if you will, it was left in the tent. I paid dearly 
for the imprudence. 

The Col du Lion was passed, and fifty yards more would have 
placed me on the " Great Staircase," down which one can run. But 

* A remarkable streak of snow (marked " cravate " in the outline of the Matter- 
horn, as seen from the Theodule) runs across the cliff at this part of the mountain. 
My highest point was somewhat higher than the lowest part of this snow, and was 
consequently nearly 13,500 feet above the sea. 


on arriving at an angle of the cliffs of the Tete du Lion, while 
skirting the upper edge of the snow which abuts against them, I 
found that the heat of the two past days had nearly obliterated the 
steps which had been cut when coming up. The rocks happened 
to be impracticable just at this corner, so nothing could be done 
except make the steps afresh. The snow was too hard to beat or 
tread down, and at the angle it was all but ice ; half-a-dozen 
steps only were required, and then the ledges could be followed 
again. So I held to the rock with my right hand, and prodded 
at the snow with the point of my stick until a good step was 
made, and then, leaning round the angle, did the same for the 
other side. So far well, but in attempting to pass the corner 
(to the present moment I cannot tell how it happened) I slipped 
and fell. 

The slope was steep on which this took place, and was at the 
top of a gully that led down through two subordinate buttresses 
towards the Glacier du Lion — which was just seen, a thousand feet 
below. The gully narrowed and narrowed, until there was a mere 
thread of snow lying between two walls of rock, which came to an 
abrupt termination at the top of a precipice that intervened be- 
tween it and the glacier. Imagine a funnel cut in half through its 
length; placed at an angle of 45 degrees, with its point below and 
its concave side uppermost, and you will have a fair idea of the 

The knapsack brought my head down first, and I pitched into 
some rocks about a dozen feet below ; they caught something and 
tumbled me off the edge, head over heels, into the gully ; the 
baton was dashed from my hands, and I whirled downwards in a 
series of bounds, each longer than the last ; now over ice, now into 
rocks; striking my head four or five times, each time with in- 
creased force. The last bound sent me spinning through the air, 
in a leap of fifty or sixty feet, from one side of the gully to the 
other, and I struck the rocks, luckily, with the whole of my left 
side. They caught my clothes for a moment, and I fell back on to 


chap. v. THE EFFECT. 121 

the snow with motion arrested ; my head fortunately came the 
right side up, and a few frantic catches brought me to a halt, in the 
neck of the gully, and on the verge of the precipice. Baton, hat, 
and veil skimmed by and disappeared, and the crash of the rocks — 
which I had started — as they fell on to the glacier, told how narrow 
had been the escape from utter destruction. As it was, I fell 
nearly 200 feet in seven or eight bounds. Ten feet more would 
have taken me in one gigantic leap of 800 feet on to the glacier 

The situation was still sufficiently serious. The rocks could 
not be left go for a moment, and the blood was spirting out of 
more than twenty cuts. The most serious ones were in the head, 
and I vainly tried to close them with one hand, while holding on 
with the other. It was useless ; the blood jerked out in blinding 
jets at each pulsation. At last, in a moment of inspiration, I 
kicked out a big lump of snow, and stuck it as a plaster on my 
head. The idea was a happy one, and the flow of blood 
diminished ; then, scrambling up, I got, not a moment too soon, to 
a place of safety, and fainted away. The sun was setting when 
consciousness returned, and it was pitch dark before the Great 
Staircase was descended ; but, by a combination of luck and care, 
the whole 4800 feet of descent to Breil was accomplished without 
a slip, or once missing the way. I slunk past the cabin of the 
cowherds, who were talking and laughing inside, utterly ashamed 
of the state to which I had been brought by my imbecility, and 
entered the inn stealthily, wishing to escape to my room un- 
noticed. But Favre met me in the passage, demanded " Who is 
it ? " screamed with fright when he got a light, and aroused the 
household. Two dozen heads then held solemn council over mine, 
with more talk than action. The natives were unanimous in re- 
commending that hot wine (syn. vinegar), mixed with salt, should 
be rubbed into the cuts. I protested, but they insisted. It was 
all the doctoring they received. Whether their rapid healing was 
to be attributed to that simple remedy, or to a good state of health, 





is a question ; they closed up remarkably quickly, and in a few 
days I was able to move again * 

It was sufficiently dull during this time. I was chiefly occu- 
pied in meditating on the vanity of human wishes, and in watching 


my clothes being washed in the tub which was turned by the 
stream in the front of the house ; and I vowed that if an English- 
man should at any time fall sick in the Val Tournanche, he should 
not feel so solitary as I did at this dreary time/f 

* I received much attention from a kind English lady who was staying in the 


f As it seldom happens that one survives such a fall, it may be interesting to 
record what my sensations were during its occurrence. 1 was perfectly conscious 
of what was happening, and felt each blow ; but, like a patient under chloro- 
form, experienced no pain. Each blow was, naturally, more severe than that which 
preceded it, and I distinctly remember thinking "Well, if the next is harder still, 
that will be the end ! " Like persons who have been rescued from drowning, I re- 
member that the recollection of a multitude of things rushed through my head, 
many of them trivialities or absurdities, which had been forgotten long before ; and, 
more remarkable, this bounding through space did not feel disagreeable. But I 
think that in no very great distance more, consciousness as well as sensation would 
have been lost, and upon that I base my belief, improbable as it seems, that death by 
a fall from a great height is as painless an end as can be experienced. 

The battering was very rough, yet no bones were broken. The most severe cuts 
were one of four inches long on the top of the Lead, and another of three inches on the 


The news of the accident brought Jean-Antoine Carrel up to 
Breil, and, along with the haughty chasseur came one of his 
relatives, a strong and able young fellow named Caesar. With 
these two men and Meynet I made another start on the 23d of 
July. We got to the tent without any trouble, and on the follow- 
ing day had ascended beyond the Tower, and were picking our way 
cautiously over the loose rocks behind (where my traces of the 
week before were well apparent) in lovely weather, when one. of 
those abominable and almost instantaneous changes occurred, to 
which the Matterhorn is so liable on its southern side. Mists 
were created out of invisible vapours, and in a few minutes snow 
fell heavily. We stopped, as this part was of excessive difficulty, 
and, unwilling to retreat, remained on the spot several hours, in 
hopes that another change would occur ; but, as it did not, we at 
length went down to the base of the Tower, and commenced to 
make a third platform, at the height of 12,992 feet above the sea. 
It still continued to snow, and we took refuge in the tent. Carrel 
argued that the weather had broken up, and that the mountain 
would become so glazed with ice as to render any attempt futile ; 
and I, that the change was only temporary, and that the rocks 
were too hot to allow ice to form upon them. I wished to stay until 
the weather improved, but my leader would not endure contradic- 
tion, grew more positive, and insisted that we must go down. We 
went down, and when we got below the Col his opinion was found 
to be wrong ; the cloud was confined to the upper 3000 feet, and 
outside it there was brilliant weather. 

right temple: this latter bled frightfully. There was a formidable -looking cut, of 
about the same size as the last, on the palm of the left hand, and every limb was 
grazed, or cut, more or less seriously. The tips of the ears were taken off, and a sharp 
rock cut a circular bit out of the side of the left boot, sock, and ankle, at one stroke. 
The loss of blood, although so great, did not seem to be permanently injurious. The 
only serious effect has been the reduction of a naturally retentive memory to a very 
common-place one ; and although my recollections of more distant occurrences re- 
main unshaken, the events of that particular day would be clean gone but for the few- 
notes which were written down before the accident. 


Carrel was not an easy man to manage. He was perfectly 
aware that he was the cock of the Yal Tournanche, and he com- 
manded the other men as by right. He was equally conscious that 
he was indispensable to me, and took no pains to conceal his know- 
ledge of the fact. If he had been commanded, or if he had been 
entreated to stop, it would have been all the same. But, let me 
repeat, he was the only first-rate climber I could find who believed 
that the mountain was not inaccessible. With him I had hopes, 
but without him none ; so he was allowed to do as he would. His 
will on this occasion was almost incomprehensible. He certainly 
could not be charged with cowardice, for a bolder man could hardly 
be found ; nor was he turning away on account of difficulty, for 
nothing to which we had yet come seemed to be difficult to him ; 
and his strong personal desire to make the ascent was evident. 
There was no occasion to come down on account of food, for we had 
taken, to guard against this very casualty, enough to last for a 
week ; and there was no danger, and little or no discomfort, in 
stopping in the tent. It seemed to me that he was spinning out 
the ascent for his own purposes, and that although he wished very 
much to be the first man on the top, and did not object to be ac- 
companied by any one else who had the same wish, he had no 
intention of letting one succeed too soon, — perhaps to give a 
greater appearance of eclat when the thing was accomplished. As 
he feared no rival, he may have supposed that the more difficulties 
he made the more valuable he would be estimated ; though, to do 
him justice, he never showed any great hunger for money. His 
demands were fair, not excessive ; but he always stipulated for so 
much per clay, and so, under any circumstances, he did not do badly. 

Vexed at having my time thus frittered away, I was still well 
pleased when he volunteered to start again on the morrow, if it was 
fine. We were to advance the tent to the foot of the Tower, to 
fix ropes in the most difficult parts beyond, and to make a push for 
the summit on the following day. 

The next morning (Friday the 25th) when I arose, good little 

chap. v. OUR FIFTH ATTEMPT. 125 

Meynet was ready and waiting, and he said that the two Carrels 
had gone off some time before, and had left word that they intended 
marmot-hnnting, as the day was favourable for that sport.* My 
holiday had nearly expired, and these men clearly could not be 
relied upon ; so, as a last resort, I proposed to the hunchback to 
accompany me alone, to see if we could not get higher than before, 
though of reaching the summit there was little or no hope. He 
did not hesitate, and in a few hours we stood — for the third time 
together — upon the Col du Lion ; but it was the first time Meynet 
had seen the view unclouded. The poor little deformed peasant 
gazed upon it silently and reverently for a time, and then, un- 
consciously, fell on one knee in an attitude of adoration, and 
clasped his hands, exclaiming in ecstasy, " Oh, beautiful mountains I" 
His actions were as appropriate as his words were natural, and 
tears bore witness to the reality of his emotion. 

Our power was too limited to advance the tent, so we slept at 
the old station, and starting very early the next morning, passed 
the place where we had turned back on the 24th, and, subse- 
quently, my highest point on the 19th. We found the crest of the 
ridge so treacherous that we took to the cliffs on the right, although 
most unwillingly. Little by little we fought our way up, but at 
length we were both spread-eagled on the all but perpendicular 
face, unable to advance, and barely able to descend. We returned 
to the ridge. It was almost equally difficult, and infinitely more 
unstable ; and at length, after having pushed our attempts as far 
as was prudent, I determined to return to Breil, and to have a 
light ladder made to assist us to overcome some of the steepest 
parts.-f I expected, too, that by this time Carrel would have had 
enough marmot-hunting, and would deign to accompany us again. 

* An incident like this goes far to make one look favourably upon the reglements 
of Chamounix and other places. This could not have occurred at Chamounix, nor 
here, if there had been a bureau des guides. 

t This appeared to be the most difficult part of the mountain. One was driven 
to keep to the edge of the ridge, or very near to it ; and at the point where we turned 
back (which was almost as high as the highest part of the " cravate," and perhaps 


We came down at a great pace, for we were now so familiar 
with the mountain, and with each other's wants, that we knew im- 
mediately when to give a helping hand, and when to let alone. 
The rocks also were in a better state than I have ever seen them, 
being almost entirely free from glaze of ice. Meynet was always 
merriest on the difficult parts, and, on the most difficult, kept on 
enunciating the sentiment, " We can only die once," which thought 
seemed to afford him infinite satisfaction. We arrived at the inn 
early in the evening, and I found my projects summarily and un- 
expectedly knocked on the head. 

Professor Tyndall had arrived while we were absent, and he had 
engaged both Csesar and Jean-Antoine Carrel. Bennen was also 
with him, together with a powerful and active friend, a Valaisan 
guide, named Anton Walter. They had a ladder already pre- 
pared, provisions were being collected, and they intended to start 
on the following morning (Sunday). This new arrival took me 
by surprise. Bennen, it will be remembered, refused point-blank 
to take Professor Tyndall on the Matterhorn in 1861. "He 
was dead against any attempt on the mountain," says Tyndall. 
He was now eager to set out. Professor Tyndall has not explained 
in what way this revolution came about in his guide. I was 
equally astonished at the faithlessness of Carrel, and attributed it 
to pique at our having presumed to do without him. It was 
useless to compete with the Professor and his four men, who 
were ready to start in a few hours, so I waited to see what would 
come of their attempt. 

Everything seemed to favour it, and they set out on a fine 
morning in high spirits, leaving me tormented with envy and all 
uncharitableness. If they succeeded, they carried off the prize for 
which I had been so long struggling ; and if they failed, there was 

100 feet higher than my scramble on the 19th) there were smooth walls seven or 
eight feet high in every direction, which were impassable to a single man, and which 
could only be surmounted by the assistance of ladders, or by using one's comrades as 



no time to make another attempt, for I was due in a few days more 
in London. When this came home clearly to me, I resolved to 
leave Breil at once, but, when packing up, found that some neces- 
saries had been left behind in the tent. So I went off about mid- 
day to recover them ; caught the army of the Professor before it 
reached the Col, as they were going very slowly ; left them there 
(stopping to take food), and went on to the tent. I was near to it 
when all at once I heard a noise aloft, and, on looking up, perceived 
a stone of at least a foot cube flying straight at my head. I ducked, 
and scrambled under the lee side of a friendly rock, while the stone 
went by with a loud buzz. It was the advanced guard of a perfect 
storm of stones, which descended with infernal clatter down the very 
edge of the ridge, leaving a trail of dust behind, with a strong smell 
of sulphur, that told who had sent them. The men below were 
on the look-out, but the stones did not come near them, and break- 
ing away on one side went down to the glacier* 

I waited at the tent to welcome the Professor, and when he 
arrived went down to Breil. Early next morning some one ran to 
me saying that a flag was seen on the summit of the Matterhorn. 
It was not so, however, although I saw that they had passed the 
place where we had turned back on the 26th. I had now no doubt 
of their final success, for they had got beyond the point which 
Carrel, not less than myself, had always considered to be the most 
questionable place on the whole mountain. Up to it there was no 
choice of route, — I suppose that at no one point between it and the 
Col was it possible to diverge a dozen paces to the right or left, 

* Professor Tyndall describes this incident in the following words : — "We had 
gathered up our traps, and bent to the work before us, when suddenly an explosion 
occurred overhead. We looked aloft and saw in mid-air a solid shot from the Mat- 
terhorn describing its proper parabola, and finally splitting into fragments as it smote 
one of the rocky towers in front. Down the shattered fragments came like a kind of 
spray, slightly wide of us, but still near enough to compel a sharp look-out. Two or 
three such explosions occurred, but we chose the back fin of the mountain for our 
track, and from this the falling stones were speedily deflected right or left."— Satur- 
day Review, Aug. 8, 1863. "Reprinted in Macmillcm's Magazine, April, 1869. 




but beyond it it was otherwise, and we had always agreed, in our 
debates, that if it could be passed success was certain. The accom- 
panying outline from a sketch taken from the door of the inn at 
Breil will help to explain. The letter A indicates the position of 
the Great Tower ; C the " cravate " (the strongly-marked streak of 
snow referred to on p. 119, and which we just failed to arrive at on 

TfcTE Dll 


the 26th) ; B the place where we now saw something that looked 
like a flag. Behind the point B a nearly level ridge leads up to the 
foot of the final peak, which will be understood by a reference to 
the outline facing p. 83, on which the same letters indicate the 
same places. It was just now said, we considered that if the point 
C could be passed, success was certain. Tyndall was at B very 
early in the morning, and I did not doubt that he would reach the 
summit, although it yet remained problematical whether he would 
be able to stand on the very highest point. The summit was evi- 
dently formed of a long ridge, on which there were two points 
nearly equally elevated — so equally that one could not say which 
was the highest — and between the two there seemed to bo a deep 


notch, marked D on the outlines, which might defeat one at the 
very last moment. 

My knapsack was packed, and I had drunk a parting glass of 
wine with Favre, who was jubilant at the success which was to 
make the fortune of his inn ; but I could not bring myself to leave 
until the result was heard, and lingered about, as a foolish lover 
hovers round the object of his affections, even after he has been 
contemptuously rejected. The sun had set before the men were 
descried coming over the pastures. There was no spring in their 
steps — they, too, were defeated. The Carrels hid their heads, but 
the others said, as men will do when they have been beaten, that 
the mountain was horrible, impossible, and so forth. Professor 
Tyndall told me they had arrived within a stone's throw of the sum- 
mit, and admonished me to have nothing more to do with the 
mountain. I understood him to say that he should not try again, 
and ran down to the village of Val Tournanche, almost inclined to 
believe that the mountain was inaccessible ; leaving the tent, ropes, 
and other matters in the hands of Favre, to be placed at the dis- 
posal of any person who wished to ascend it, more, I am afraid, 
out of irony than for generosity. There may have been those who 
believed that the Matterhorn could be ascended, but, anyhow, their 
faith did not bring forth works. No one tried again in 1862. 

Business took me into Dauphine before returning to London, 
and a week after Tyndall's defeat I lay one night, after a sultry day, 
half-asleep, tossing about in one of the abominations which serve 
for beds in the inn kept by the Deputy-Mayor of La Ville de Val 
Louise ; looking at a strange ruddiness on the ceiling, which I 
thought might be some effect of electricity produced by the irrita- 
tion of the myriads of fleas ; when the great bell of the church, 
close at hand, pealed out with loud and hurried clangour. I jumped 
up, for the voices and movements of the people in the house made 
me think of fire. It was fire ; and I saw from my window, on the 
other side of the river, great forked flames shooting high into the 



sky, black dots with long shadows hurrying towards the place, 
and the crests of the ridges catching the light and standing out 
like spectres. All the world was in motion, for the neighbouring 
villages — now aroused — rang out the alarm. I pulled on my shirt, 
and tore over the bridge. Three large chalets were on fire, and 
were surrounded by a mass of people, who were bringing all their 
pots and pans, and anything that would hold water. They formed 
themselves into several chains, each two deep, leading towards the 
nearest stream, and passed the water up one side, and the empty 
utensils down the other. My old friend the mayor was there, in 
full force, striking the ground with his stick, and vociferating, 
" Work ! work ! " but the men, with much presence of mind, 
chiefly ranged themselves on the sides of the empty buckets, and 
left the real work to their better halves. Their efforts were useless, 
and the chalets burnt themselves out. 

The next morning I visited the still smouldering ruins, and saw 
the homeless families sitting in a dismal row in front of their 
charred property. The people said that one of the houses had been 
well insured, and that its owner had endeavoured to forestall luck. 
He had arranged the place for a bonfire, set the lower rooms on 
fire in several places, and had then gone out of the way, leaving his 
wife and children in the upper rooms, to be roasted or not as the 
case might be. His plans only partially succeeded, and it was 
satisfactory to see the scoundrel brought back in the custody of two 
stalwart gensdarmes. Three days afterwards 1 was in London. 




" How like a winter hath my absence been 
From thee, the pleasure of a fleeting year !" 

W. Shakespeare. 

I crossed the Channel on the 29th of July 1863, embarrassed by 
the possession of two ladders, each twelve feet long, which joined 
together like those used by firemen, and shut up like parallel rulers. 
My luggage was highly suggestive of housebreaking, for, besides these, 
there were several coils of rope, and numerous tools of suspicious 
appearance, and it was reluctantly admitted into France, but it 
passed through the custom-house with less trouble then I antici- 
pated, after a timely expenditure of a few francs. 

I am not in love with the douane. It is the purgatory of tra- 
vellers, where uncongenial spirits mingle together for a time, before 
they are separated into rich and poor. The douaniers look upon 
tourists as their natural enemies ; see how eagerly they pounce upon 
the portmanteaux ! One of them has discovered something ! He 
has never seen its like before, and he holds it aloft in the face of 
its owner, with inquisitorial insolence. "But what is this?" The 


explanation is but half satisfactory. " But what is this ?" says he, 
laying hold of a little box. " Powder." " But that it is forbidden 
to carry of powder on the railway." " Bah I" says another and older 
hand, " pass the effects of Monsieur ;" and our countryman — whose 
cheeks had begun to redden under the stares of his fellow-travellers 
— is allowed to depart with his half-worn tooth-brush, while the 
discomfited douanier gives a mighty shrug at the strange habits of 
those " whose insular position excludes them from the march of 
continental ideas." 

My real troubles commenced at Susa. The officials there, more 
honest and more obtuse than the Frenchmen, declined at one and the 
same time to be bribed, or to pass my baggage until a satisfactory 
account of it was rendered ; and, as they refused to believe the true 
explanation, I was puzzled what to say, but was presently relieved 
from the dilemma by one of the men, who was cleverer than his 
fellows, suggesting that I was going to Turin to exhibit in the 
streets ; that I mounted the ladder and balanced myself on the end 
of it, then lighted my pipe and put the point of the baton in its 
bowl, and caused the baton to gyrate around my head. The rope 
was to keep back the spectators, and an Englishman in my company 
was the agent. " Monsieur is acrobat then ?" u Yes, certainly." 
" Pass the effects of Monsieur the acrobat ! " 

These ladders were the source of endless trouble. Let us pass 
over the doubts of the guardians of the Hotel d' Europe (Trombetta), 
whether a person in the possession of such questionable articles 
should be admitted to their very respectable house, and get to 
Chatillon, at the entrance of the Val Tournanche. A mule was 
chartered to carry them, and, as they were too long to sling across 
its back, they were arranged lengthways, and one end projected over 
the animal's head, while the other extended beyond its tail. A mule 
when going up or down hill always moves with a jerky action, and 
in consequence of this the ladders hit my mule severe blows be- 
tween its ears and in its flanks. The beast, not knowing what strange 
creature it had on its back, naturally tossed its head and threw out 


its legs, and this, of course, only made the blows that it received 
more severe. At last it ran away, and would have perished by 
rolling down a precipice, if the men had not caught hold of its tail. 
The end of the matter was that a man had to follow the mule, 
holding the end of the ladders, which obliged him to move his arms 
up and down incessantly, and to bow to the hind quarters of the 
animal in a way that afforded more amusement to his comrades 
than it did to him. 

I was once more en route for the Matterhorn, for I had heard in 
the spring of 1863 the cause of the failure of Professor Tyndall, and 
learnt that the case was not so hopeless as it appeared to be at one 
time. I found that he arrived as far only as the northern end of 
" the shoulder." The point at which he says,* they " sat down with 
broken hopes, the summit within a stone's-throw of us, but still 
defying us," was not the notch or cleft at D (which is literally 
within a stone's-throw of the summit), but another and more formi- 
dable cleft that intervenes between the northern end of " the 
shoulder " and the commencement of the final peak. It is marked 
E on the outline which faces p. 83. Carrel and all the men who 
had been with me knew of the existence of this cleft, and of the 
pinnacle which rose between it and the final peak ; f and we had 
frequently talked about the best manner of passing the place. On 
this we disagreed, but we were both of opinion that when we got 
to " the shoulder " it would be necessary to bear down gradually to 
the right or to the left, to avoid coming to the top of the notch. 
But Tyndall's party, after arriving at " the shoulder," was led by his 
guides along the crest of the ridge, and, consequently, when they got 
to its northern end, they came to the top of the notch, instead of the 
bottom — to the dismay of all but the Carrels. Dr. Tyndall's words 
are, " The ridge was here split by a deep cleft which separated it 
from the final precipice, and the case became more hopeless as we 
came more near." The Professor adds, " The mountain is 14,800 

* Saturday Review, August 8, 1863. 
t The pinnacle, in fact, had a name, — ' L'ange Auk'-.' 


feet high, and 14,600 feet had been accomplished." He greatly 
deceived himself; by the barometric measurements of Signor 
Giordano the notch is no less than 800 feet below the summit. The 
guide Walter (Dr. Tyndall says) said it was impossible to proceed, 
and the Carrels, appealed to for their opinion (this is their own 
account), gave as an answer, " We are porters, ask your guides." 
Bennen, thus left to himself, " was finally forced to accept defeat." 
Tyndall had nevertheless accomplished an advance of about 400 
feet over one of the most difficult parts of the mountain. 

There are material discrepancies between the published narratives 
of Professor Tyndall * and the verbal accounts of the Carrels. The 
former says the men had to be " urged on," that " they pronounced 
flatly against the final precipice," " they yielded so utterly," and 
that Bennen said, in answer to a final appeal made to him, " ' What 
could I do, sir ? not one of them would accompany me.' It was the 
accurate truth." Jean-Antoine Carrel says that when Professor 
Tyndall gave the order to turn he would have advanced to examine 
the route, as he did not think that further progress was impossible, 
but he was stopped by the Professor, and was naturally obliged to 
follow the others. t These disagreements may well be left to be 

* Saturday Review, 1863, and Macmillarts Magazine, 1869. 

f I have entered into this matter because much surprise has been expressed that 
Carrel was able to pass this place, without any great difficulty, in 1865, which 
turned back so strong a party in 1862. The cause of Professor Tyndall's defeat was 
simply that his second guide (Walter) did not give aid to Bennen when it was required, 
and that the Carrels would not act as guides after having been hired as porters. J. A. 
Carrel not only knew of the existence of this place before they came to it ; but always 
believed in the possibility of passing it, and of ascending the mountain ; and had he 
been leader to the party I do not doubt that he might have taken Tyndall to the top. 
But when appealed to to assist Bennen (a Swiss, and the recognised leader of the 
part} 7 ), was it likely that he (an Italian, a porter), who intended to be the first man 
up the mountain by a route which he regarded peculiarly his own, would render any 

It is not so easy to understand how Dr. Tyndall and Bennen overlooked the exist- 
ence of this cleft, for it is seen over several points of the compass, and particularly 
well from the southern side of the Theodule pass. Still more difficult is it to explain 
how the Professor came to consider that he was only a stone's-throw from the summit ; 

chap. vi. ON THE VAL TOURNANGHE. 135 

settled by those who are concerned. Tyndall, Walter, and Bennen, 
now disappear from this history.* 

The Val Tonrnanche is one of the most charming valleys in the 
Italian Alps ; it is a paradise to an artist, and if the space at my 
command were greater 1 wonld willingly linger over its groves of 
chestnuts, its bright trickling rills and its roaring torrents, its upland 
unsuspected valleys and its noble cliffs. The path rises steeply 
from Chatillon, but it is well shaded, and the heat of the summer 
sun is tempered by cool air and spray which comes off the ice-cold 
streams.")" One sees from the path, at several places on the right 
bank of the valley, groups of arches which have been built high up 
against the faces of the cliffs. Guide-books repeat — on whose 
authority I know not — that they are the remains of a Eoman 
aqueduct. They have the Eoman boldness of conception, but the 
work has not the usual Eoman solidity. The arches have always 
seemed to me to be the remains of an unfinished work, and I learn 
from Jean Antoine Carrel that there are _ sis- 

other groups of arches, which are not seen -j>ii< ^ffi?SllB 

from the path, all having the same appear- ^ > : ^^^WS^^- 
ance. It may be questioned whether those ||LgS|| \ jMifflj W~ 
seen near the village of Antey are Eoman. j -Jg|j | P 

Some of them are semicircular, whilst others -"" ^ 5 - X'i 

are distinctly pointed. Here is one of the [ ' 

latter, which might pass for fourteenth- ! 

century work, or later ; — a two-centred arch, with mean voussoirs, 
and the masonry, in rough courses. These arches are well worth 
the attention of an archaeologist, but some difficulty will be found 
in approaching them closely. 

for, when he got to the end of "the shoulder," he must have been perfectly aware 
that the whole height of the final peak was still above him. 

1 Dr. Tyndall ascended the Matterhorn in 1868. See Appendix, 
f Information upon the Val Tonrnanche will be found in De Saussure's Voyages 
dans Us Alpes, vol. iv. pp. 379-81, 406-9 ; in Canon Carrel's pamphlet. La ValUc de 
Valtorncnchc en 1867 ; and in King's Italian Valleys of the Alps, pp. 220-1. 


We sauntered up the valley, and got to Breil when all were 
asleep. A halo round the moon promised watery weather, and we 
were not disappointed, for, on the next day (August 1), rain fell 
heavily, and when the clouds lifted for a time, we saw that new 
snow lay thickly over everything higher than 9000 feet. J. A. 
Carrel was ready and waiting (as I had determined to give the 
bold cragsman another chance) ; and he did not need to say that the 
Matterhorn would be impracticable for several days after all this 
new snow, even if the weather were to arrange itself at once. Our 
first day together was accordingly spent upon a neighbouring 
summit, the Cimes Blanches ; a degraded mountain, well known 
for its fine panoramic view. It was little that we saw ; for, in 
every direction except to the south, writhing masses of heavy 
clouds obscured everything ; and to the south our view was inter- 
cepted by a peak higher than the Cimes Blanches, named the Grand 
Tournalin.* But we got some innocent pleasure out of watching 
the gambolings of a number of goats, who became fast friends after 
we had given them some salt ; in fact, too fast, and caused us no 
little annoyance when we were descending. " Carrel," I said, as a 
number of stones whizzed by which they had dislodged, " this 
must be put a stop to." "Diable !" he grunted, " it is very well to 
talk, but how will you do it ?" I said that I would try ; and 
sitting down, poured a little brandy into the hollow of my hand, 
and allured the nearest goat with deceitful gestures. It was one 
who had gobbled up the paper in which the salt had been carried — 
an animal of enterprising character — and it advanced fearlessly and 
licked up the brandy. I shall not easily forget its surprise. It 
stopped short, and coughed, and looked at me as much as to say, 
" Oh, you cheat !" and spat and ran away ; stopping now and then 
to cough and spit again. We were not troubled any more by those 

More snow fell during the night, and our attempt on the 
Matterhorn was postponed indefinitely. As there was nothing to 

* I shall speak again <»1 this mountain, and therefore pass it over for the present. 

chap. vi. THE BREUILJOGH. 137 

be done at Breil, I determined to make the tour of the mountain, 
and commenced by inventing a pass from Breil to Zermatt,* in 
place of the hackneyed Theodule. Any one who looks at the map 
will see that the latter pass makes a considerable detour to the east, 
and, apparently, goes out of the way. I thought that it was possible 
to strike out a shorter route, both in distance and in time, and we 
set out on the 3d of August, to carry out the idea. We followed 
the Theodule path for some time, but quitted it when it bore away 
to the east, and kept straight on until we struck the moraine of the 
Mont Cervin glacier. Our track still continued in a straight line up 
the centre of the glacier to the foot of a tooth of rock, which juts pro- 
minently out of the ridge (Furggengrat) connecting the Matterhorn 
with the Theodulehorn. The head of the glacier was connected 
with this little peak by a steep bank of snow ; but we were able to 
go straight up, and struck the Col at its lowest point, a little to the 
right (that is to say, to the east) of the above-mentioned peak. On 
the north there was a snow-slope corresponding to that on the other 
side, but half-an-hour took us to its base ; we then bore away over 
the nearly level plateau of the Furggengletscher, making a straight 
track to the Hornli, from whence we descended to Zermatt by one 
of the well-known paths. This pass has been dubbed the Breuiljoch 
by the Swiss surveyors. It is a few feet higher than the Theodule, 
and it may be recommended to those who are familiar with that 
pass, as it gives equally fine views, and is accessible at all times. 
But it will never be frequented like the Theodule, as the snow- 
slope at its summit, at certain times, will require the use of the 
axe. It took us six hours and a quarter to go from one place to 
the other, which was an hour longer than we would have occupied 
by the Theodule, although the distance in miles is less. 

It is stated in one of the MS. note-books of the late Principal 
J. D. Forbes, that this depression, now called the Breuiljoch, was 
formerly the pass between the Val Tournanche and Zermatt, and 
that it was abandoned for the Theodule in consequence of changes 

* See the map of the Matterhorn and its glaciers. 



in the glaciers.* The authority for the statement was not given. 
I presume it was from local tradition, but I readily credit it ; for, 
before the time that the glaciers had shrunk to so great an extent, the 
steep snow-slopes above mentioned, in all probability, did not exist ; 
but, most likely, the glaciers led by very gentle gradients up to the 
summit ; in which case the route would have formed the natural 
highway between the two places. It is far from impossible, if the 
glaciers continue to diminish at their present rapid rate,j* that the 
Theodule itself, the easiest and the most frequented of all the 
higher Alpine passes, may, in the course of a few years, become 
somewhat difficult ; and if this should be the case, the prosperity 
of Zermatt will probably suffer. J 

* My attention was directed to this note by Mr. A. Adams-Reilly. 

t The summit of the Theodule pass is 10,899 feet above the sea. It is estimated 
that of late about a thousand tourists have crossed it per annum. In the winter, 
when the crevasses are bridged over and partially filled up, and the weather is favour- 
able, cows and sheep pass over it from Zermatt to Val Tournanche, and vice versa. 

In the middle of August, 1792, De Saussure appears to have taken mules from 
Breil, over the Val Tournanche glacier to the summit of the Theodule ; and on a pre- 
vious journey he did the same, also in the middle of August. He distinctly mentions 
(§ 2220) that the glacier was completely covered with snow, and that no crevasses 
were open. I do not think mules could have been taken over the same spot in any 
August during the past ten years without great difficulty. In that month the glacier 
is usually very bare of snow, and many crevasses are open. They are easily enough 
avoided by those on foot, but would prove very troublesome to mules. 

A few days before we crossed the Breuiljoch in 1863, Mr. F. Morshead made a 
parallel pass to it. He crossed the ridge on the western side of the little peak, and 
followed a somewhat more difficult route than ours. In 1865 I wanted to use Mr. 
Morshead's pass (see Chap, xv.), but found that it was not possible to descend the 
Zermatt side ; for, during the two years which had elapsed, the glacier had shrunk 
so much that it was completely severed from the summit of the pass, and we could 
not get down the rocks that were exposed. 

+ The admirable situation of Zermatt has been known for, at least, thirty years, 
but it is only within the last twelve or fourteen that it has become an approved 
Alpine centre. Thirty years ago the Theodule pass, the Weissthor, and the 
Col d'Herens, were, I believe, the only routes ever taken from Zermatt across the 
Pennine Alps. At the present time there are (inclusive of these passes and of the 
valley road) no less than twenty-four different ways in which a tourist may go from 
Zermatt. The summits of some of these cols are more than 14,000 feet above the 


Carrel and I wandered out again in the afternoon, and went, 
first of all, to a favourite spot with tourists near the end of the 
Gorner glacier (or, properly speaking, the Boden glacier), to a little 
verdant flat — studded with Euphrasia officinalis — the delight of 
swarms of bees, who gather there the honey which afterwards 
appears at the table d'hote. 

On our right the glacier-torrent thundered down the valley 
through a gorge with precipitous sides, not easily approached ; for 
the turf at the top was slippery, and the rocks had everywhere been 
rounded by the glacier, — which formerly extended far away. This 
gorge seems to have been made chiefly by the torrent, and to have 
been excavated subsequently to the retreat of the glacier. It seems 
so because not merely upon its walls are there the marks of running 
water, but even upon the rounded rocks at the top of its walls, at a 
height of seventy or eighty feet above the present level of the tor- 
rent, there are some of those queer concavities which rapid streams 
alone are known to produce on rocks. 

A little bridge, apparently frail, spans the torrent just above 
the entrance to this gorge, and from it one perceives, being fashioned 
in the rocks below, concavities similar to those to which reference 
has just been made. The torrent is seen hurrying forwards. Not 
everywhere. In some places the water strikes projecting angles, 
and, thrown back by them, remains almost stationary, eddying 
round and round : in others, obstructions fling it up in fountains, 
which play perpetually on the tender surfaces of overhanging masses ; 
and sometimes do so in such a way that the water not only works 
upon the under surfaces, but round the corner ; that is to say, upon 

level of the sea, and a good many of them cannot be recommended either for ease, or 
as offering the shortest way from Zermatt to the valleys and villages to which they 

Zermatt itself is still only a village with 500 inhabitants (about thirty of whom are 
guides), with picturesque chalet dwellings, black with age. The hotels, including the 
inn on the Riffelberg, all belong to one proprietor (M. Alexandre Seller), to whom the 
village and valley are very much indebted for their prosperity, and who is the best 
person to consult for information, or in all cases of difficulty. 



chap. vr. 

the surfaces which are not opposed to the general direction of the 
current. In all cases concavities are being produced. Projecting 
angles are rounded, it is true, and are more or less convex, but they 
are overlooked on account of the prevalence of concave forms. 

Cause and effect help each other here. The inequalities of the 

• <^a r , _, r- ^ ^*<3 


torrent bed and walls cause its eddyings, and the eddies fashion 
the concavities. The more profound the latter become, the more 
disturbance is caused in the water. The destruction of the rocks 
proceeds at an ever-increasing rate ; for the larger the amount of 
surface that is exposed, the greater are the opportunities for the 
assaults of heat and cold. 

When water is in the form of glacier it has not the power of 
making concavities, such as these, in rocks, and of working upon 
surfaces which are not opposed to the direction of the current. Its 

chap. vi. GLACIER VERSUS ROCKS. 141 

nature is changed ; it operates in a different way, and it leaves 
marks which are readily distinguished from those produced by 

The prevailing forms which result from glacier-action are more 


or less convex. Ultimately, all angles and almost all curves are 
obliterated, and large areas of flat surfaces are produced. This per- 
fection of abrasion is rarely found, except in such localities as have 
sustained a grinding much more severe than that which has occurred 
in the Alps ; and, generally speaking, the dictum of the veteran 


geologist Studer, quoted below, is undoubtedly true.* Not merely 
can the operations of extinct glaciers be traced in detail by means 
of the bosses of rock popularly termed roches moiitonnees, but their 
effects in the aggregate, on a range of mountains or an entire country, 
can be recognised sometimes at a distance of fifteen or twenty miles 
from the incessant repetition of these convex forms. 

It will not be uninteresting to consider, for a few moments, the 
way in which they are produced by glaciers ; but first of all w T e must 
look back to the time when they had no existence. 

§ 1. If ever the surface of the earth was as true as if it had been 
turned out from a lathe, it was certainly not so when the great glaciers 
— whose poor remnants we now see in the Alps — began to stretch 
far away from the mountains on to the lowlands of Switzerland and 
on to the plain of Piedmont, — unless geology is a lie. If geological 
reasoning is not a delusion and a snare, age upon age had passed 
away before this took place ; rocks had crumbled into dust, and 
their particles had been re-arranged ; lightning had struck the peaks ; 
frost had cleft their ridges ; avalanches had swept their slopes ; 
earthquakes had fissured the soil ; and torrents had transported 
the debris far and wide, — had eaten into the clefts, had scored the 
slopes, and had deepened the fissures for an indefinite length of 
time. It was, therefore, not a bran new world upon which the 
glaciers commenced to work — a globe which had been, as it were, 
just turned out of a mould ; but it was scarred and weather- 
beaten ; there were upon it hills and dales innumerable, cracks and 
chasms, asperities and depressions, which heat and cold had pene- 
trated, and water had still further deepened. The world was 
incalculably old when this modern glacial period began its opera- 
tions ; and, although it continued for a long time, the glaciers 

* " Un des fails les mieux constates est que Ferosion des glaciers se distingue de 
celle des eaux en ce que la premiere produit des roclies convexes ou moutonuees, 
tandis que la seconde donne lieu a des concavites." — Prof. B. Studer, Origine des 
Lacs Swisses. 


were unable to obliterate the effects of the older and greater 
powers. The roches moutonnees owe their peculiar form to the 
grinding of ice certainly, but they were blocked out anterior to the 
formation of the glaciers. They were, when the ice quitted them, 
to what they were before the glaciers began to work, very much 
like what an old worn coin is to one that is newly struck. The 
hollows w T ere not so much affected, but the eminences were ground 
down ; the depressions of the modelling remained, but the parts in 
relief were taken away. It requires, therefore, some little effort to 
imagine what the rock forms w T ere like before the glaciers of the 
glacial period began to operate upon them, but we cannot be wrong 
in assuming that the forms were similar to those exhibited by 
weathered rocks at the present time. 

§ 2. Glacier ice is plastic, and can be moulded by pressure to 
almost any form. Hence, if a glacier could remain perfectly 
stationary, it would be moulded, by means of its own weight, to 
the surface upon which it reposed. But glaciers move, and conse- 
quently the bottom of one is never completely moulded to its rock- 
bed. The pressure from the weight of the ice is opposed by the 
motion of the glacier, and the ice is urged past depressions before 
it can be moulded to them. 

For example, let Fig. 1 of the diagram on p. 144 represent 
a section of a portion of the bottom of a glacier which is beginning 
to work upon weathered rocks ; G, G, indicating the glacier, and the 
arrow the direction in which the glacier is moving. The ice, after 
passing the eminences A, B, C, does not completely fill the hollows 
D, E, F* 

These things can be observed at the sides of most considerable 
glaciers, and particularly well at several places on each bank of 
the Gorner glacier. At several places (such as at D in Fig. 1) 
one can get underneath and see the ice bridging hollows ; and 
notice proof of its motion, and that it is partially moulded to the 

* The outline is a tracing from a photograph of weathered, tinglaciated rocks. 




rocks, in the flutings upon the bottom of the glacier leading up to 
the eminences by which they have been caused. 

Fig. 1 

Fig. 3 


Fig. 4. -^ 

Fig. 5. 

§ 3. It is, therefore, evident that when a glacier passes over 
ground such as has been indicated in § 1, it is supported upon a 
number of points, and bridges many hollows ; that the parts of 
the rock which the ice touches sustain the entire weight and 
friction of the glacier, and are alone abraded, while the hollows 

char vi. ROCHES MOUTONNEES. 145 

§ 4. But whilst the motion of the glacier is urging it onwards 
and over depressions, the weight of its ice is pressing it into the 
depressions, and hence the ice strikes the next projection at a 
lower level than it left the last one. For example, after passing 
the hollow D, the ice strikes the eminence B at a lower level than 
it left A (Fig. 1). 

§ 5. The immediate effect is, that the minor asperities of the 
rock suffer, and chiefly those which are opposed to the direction of 
motion of the glacier. They may be actually crushed, or fragments 
which are already loose may be brushed or scraped away ; in any 
case they disappear (Fig. 2). 

§ 6. In consequence of this, the glacier becomes supported upon 
a larger area, and its power is exerted over a greater surface. It 
follows, also, that the amount, in depth, of the matter which is 
removed constantly diminishes, if the power that is employed con- 
tinues to be the same. 

§ 7. A long continuance of abrasion, from the friction of the ice 
and by the rasping of foreign matter contained in it, lowers the 
level of the rock eminences ; but surfaces of fractures or depressions 
in the rock which are not opposed to the direction of the motion 
of the glacier remain unabraded, if they are perpendicular to the 
direction of the motion, or anything like perpendicular to it ; and 
they will continue to exist (although becoming less and less) until 
the entire bed of the glacier (that is, the surface of the rocks) has 
been reduced, over large areas, nearly to a plane surface. 

Eocks which have been rounded by glacier action (such as in 
Figs. 2, 3) are termed rochcs moutonnees, and unabraded surfaces of 
roches moutonnees (such as D, F, Figs. 2, 3) are termed lee-sides. The 
lee-sides often afford useful indications of the directions in which 
extinct glaciers have moved. 

§ 8. If glaciers still continue to work upon roches moutonnees, 
the effects which are produced are only an extension of those 



described in § 7. The highest points of the rocks are most affected, 
while the sides of depressions escape wholly, or partially, accord- 
ing as they are unopposed or opposed, to the direction of the motion 
of the glacier. Eminences are entirely removed in course of time", 
and their positions, and those of cracks or depressions, are only 
indicated by faintly-marked convexities and concavities (Fig. 4). 
These may at length disappear, and large areas of rock may be 
reduced to plane surfaces. 

Such surfaces are common in Greenland, in close proximity to, 
and extending underneath, existing glaciers. I propose to call 
them roclics nivelees, to distinguish them from roches moutonnecs* 

§ 9. Striations are frequently produced on rocks by the passage 
of glaciers (see illustration on p. 141). They are caused by foreign 
matter in the bottoms of the glaciers, fixed in the ice, or rolling or 
sliding between it and the rocks. This foreign matter is partly 
made up of fragments which have been . removed from the rock-bed 
by the action of the glacier, and partly from rocks which have 
fallen on to the surface of the glacier, and which have subsequently 
tumbled into crevasses, or otherwise worked their way down.f 

Generally speaking, striations are common upon rocks which 
are only ' moutonnecs ,' but they are rarer, or entirely wanting, upon 

* De Saussure was the author of the term roches moutonnees, and he gave (§ 1061) 
the following reason for its adoption : — "Farther off, behind the village of Juviana 
or Envionne, rocks are seen having the shape which I call moutonnee. . . The hill- 
ocks (montagnes) to which I apply this expression, are composed of a group of 
rounded prominences (tetes arrondies). . . These contiguous and frequent domes 
(rondeurs) give, as a whole, the impression of a well-furnished fleece, or one of those 
wigs which are also called moutonnees. " 

The term was an appropriate one, applied as De Saussure used it, but it is un- 
meaning when applied to the more perfectly glaciated, levelled surfaces. 

f " One who is familiar with the track of this mighty engine will recognise at 
once where the large boulders have hollowed out their deeper furrows, where small 
pebbles have drawn their finer marks, where the stones with angular edges have left 
their sharp scratches, where sand and gravel have rubbed and smoothed the rocky 
surface, and left it bright and polished. . . These marks are not to be mistaken 
by any one who has carefully observed them ; the scratches, furrows, grooves, are 


roches nivelees. They indicate a comparatively early and coarse 
stage of glacier-action. 

§ 10. More or less water is always found flowing underneath 
glaciers. It is produced by ablation of the surface of the glacier, 
and by other causes. In the earlier stages of glacier action (§§ 2-7) 
it finds a free course among the depressions beneath the ice ; but 
as the rocks become smoother and flatter it has more difficulty in 
discovering outlets, and must materially assist in reducing the 
friction of the ice upon the rocks, and in the production of highly- 
polished surfaces, by causing less violent and more uniform 

Such, it appears to me, are the ways in which glaciers 
work upon rocks, and produce surfaces moutonnees or nivelees. 
Before I quit this subject, I wish to make one or two remarks upon 
the facts which have been stated, and to draw one or two conclu- 
sions which they seem to warrant. 

1. The production of the peculiar rounded rock-forms which 
are termed roches moutonnees, is to be attributed to the extremely 
slow rate at which the bottoms of glaciers move, not less than to 
the plasticity of the ice. That the rate is very slow may be 
inferred from the fact, that the smallest fractures on rocks upon 
which glacier has worked for any length of time, have their weather 
and their lee sides. That is to say, before the ice is able to move in 

always rectilinear, tending in the direction in which the glacier is moving, and most 
distinct on that side of the surface-inequalities facing the direction of the moving 
mass, while the lee-side remains mostly untouched. 

' ' Here and there on the sides of the glacier it is possible to penetrate between the 
walls and the ice to a great depth, and even to follow such a gap to the very bottom 
of the valley ; and everywhere do we find the surface of the ice fretted as I have 
described it, with stones of every size, from the "pebble to the boulder, and also with 
sand and gravel of all sorts, from the coarsest grain to the finest, and these mate- 
rials, more or less firmly set in the ice, form the grating surface with which, on its 
onward movement down the Alpine valleys, it leaves everywhere unmistak cable traces 
of its passage. " — Agassiz, in The Atlantic Monthly. 


some cases over cavities only an eighth of an inch across, it is forced 
down into them, and strikes the little cliffs or slopes which are 
opposed to the direction of its motion at a lower level than it left 
those on the other side, — which latter ones remain sharp and un- 
rounded. This can frequently be observed, even in most minute 
fractures, upon glaciated rocks which the ice has not long quitted * 
Fig. 5, p. 144, represents an example ; the arrow points out the 
direction in which the glacier has moved, B the weather, and A the 
lee side. 

This affords a means of distinguishing glacier from water action 
in hand specimens of rock. *f" 

2. There is reason to believe that if glaciers were to move with 
rapidity, instead of with such extreme deliberation, angular surfaces 
would not be rounded, but flat surfaces would be produced from the 
beginning. That is to say, instead of turning out surfaces, such as 
are shown in the section, Fig. 3, p. 144, after many centuries of 
work, glaciers might produce similar ones to Fig. 4, or even flatter, 
in the course of a few hours. The amount of flatness which would 
be produced would depend upon the rate of the motion and the bulk 
of the ice. 

Professor Steenstrup, of Copenhagen, read to me in 1867, from 
an unpublished MS. in his possession, a highly interesting account 
of some extraordinary effects which were produced in Iceland, in 
the year 1721, by glacier in rapid motion. It seems that in the 
neighbourhood of the mountain Kotlugja, in the extreme south of 
the island, large bodies of water formed underneath, or within, the 
glaciers (either on account of the interior heat of the earth, or from 
other causes), and at length acquired irresistible power, tore the 
glaciers from their moorings on the land, and swept or floated them 
over every obstacle into the sea. Prodigious masses of ice were 
thus borne for a distance of about ten miles over land in the space 

* Glaciated rocks which have been exposed tc the atmosphere for any length of 
time, lose, of course, all such delicate touches, 
f See p. 167. 


of a few hours ; and their bulk was so enormous, that they covered 
the sea for seven miles from the shore, and remained aground in one 
hundred fathoms. The denudation on the land was upon a grand 
scale. All superficial accumulations were swept away, and the bed- 
rock was exposed. It was described, in graphic language, how all 
irregularities and depressions were obliterated, and a smooth sur- 
face of several miles area was laid bare, and that this area had the 
appearance of having been "planed by a plane." * 

Admitting the possibility of exaggeration in the narrative as 

* The account of Professor Steenstrup was, I believe, copied many years ago, 
when he was travelling in Iceland, from an original Icelandic MS. Professor Paij- 
kull, of Upsala, was favoured by Professor Steenstrup with a sight of his MS., and 
printed some extracts from it in his work E11 Sommer i Island, Copenhagen, 1867. 
The following paragraphs, which refer to this possibly unique occurrence, are taken 
from the English translation of that work : — 

" At the commencement of the eruption a stream burst forth, consisting princi- 
pally of half-melted snow and large masses of ice, which tumbled about in the sea 
like floating islands ; while, simultaneously, another stream issued in a south- 
easterly direction, and inflicted great injury on the land. The first of these two 
streams filled the sea with ice to such an extent that even from the highest moun- 
tains it was impossible to see open water till it was broken up by the action of the 
waves. It then drifted westward as far as Reykjanes, and up into the rivers along 
the coast, so that large icebergs were left standing in the bed of the river in the 
Olfusa. The greater portion, however, of the ice that had been washed down from 
the glacier remained fixed aground at a distance of about seven miles from land, in a 
hundred fathoms water. It formed, moreover, a high ridge over the land from the 
sea as far as Hafrsey, a fjeld on Myrdalssandr. ... A stream of similar terrific 
character broke out on the following day, and submerged the masses of ice that had 
been previously discharged into the sea, as far as the eye could reach. Further, it 
made its way through Kerlingar valley, and dammed up the stream there. The 
deluge, or, more properly speaking, the ice, carried, moreover, immense masses of 
rock with it ; and in the vicinity of Hjorleifshofdi, a mountain on Myrdalssandr, a 
rock of twenty fathoms in height, entirely disappeared ; not to speak of other 
instances. One can form some idea of the altitude of this barrier of ice, when it is 
mentioned that from Hofdabrekka farm, which lies high up on a fjeld of the same 
name, one could not see Hjorleifshofdi opposite, which is a fell 640 feet in height ; 
but in order to do so, had to clamber up a mountain slope east of Hofdabrekka, 1200 
feet high. The distance between Hofdabrekka and Hjorleifshofdi is one (Danish) 
geographical mile, or the fifteenth part of a degree." 


quoted below, there is not, I think, any reason to doubt the 
literal accuracy of the particular point to which attention has just 
been drawn ; and hence it would appear that the effects produced 
on rocks by glacier ice in rapid motion may be identical with 
those caused by it after a great lapse of time, when it is working 
at its ordinary rate. 

3. These results are not surprising when we remember that 
glaciers are always endeavouring to work in right lines. This is 
proved by the marks they leave, which Agassiz has well pointed 
out (see note to p. 146) are always more or less rectilinear. 

This disposition to work in right lines, combined with inability 
to operate upon depressions (except to the limited extent already 
shown), points to the reason why it is that ' ultimately all angles, 
and almost all curves, are obliterated, and large areas of flat 
surfaces are produced ' (p. 141). 

It should be observed that glaciated rocks, of the forms termed 
moutonnees, cannot possibly have been eroded to any great depth 
by glaciers during the modern * glacial period. 

The degree of flatness of glaciated rocks bears a direct relation 
to the amount of power which has been employed. In the earlier 
stages (§§ 2-7) the forms are round ; in the more advanced ones, 
they are flat. The rotundity of the form of roclies moutonnees is 
proof that no great amount of destruction has taken place ; and 
their lee-sides are additional and equally strong evidence. 

4. For, unless it can be shown to have been produced subse- 
quently to the retreat of the ice, even a single lee-side to a glaciated 
rock informs us that we see a surface which was exposed to the 
atmosphere before the glaciers began to work ; while many lee-sides, 
found together, one after another, within an area of a few yards 
(and they are often so found in localities where enormous depth of 
excavation has been presumed to have taken place through glacier 

* Geologists "begin to speak of glacial periods of a much more remote date than 
that to which T am referring. 


agency), renders it certain that the entire surface of the bed-rock 
has been lowered, at the most, but a few yards. 

Weathered rocks, upon a small scale, do not take shapes such 
as are figured in this diagram, but rather such as those which are 
shown in Fig. 1, p. 144 We do - not find deep pits or troughs 
produced in rocks (whatever may be their 
nature or composition) by weathering or 
through any of the ordinary operations of 
nature. Still less do we find a large number of HJI 

such pits or troughs close to one another. Therefore, when we see 
lee-sides as at D and F, Fig. 3, p. 144 (separated, perhaps, from each 
other by a distance of less than a dozen feet ; and representing, as 
it has been already stated, the remains of hollows or fractures 
which existed before the glacier began to work), it is certain that 
the eminences B C, between them, have been lowered only a few 
feet ; and probable that the depth of the rock which has been 
removed does not exceed the length of a line drawn from D to F. 

The unworn lee-sides to glaciated rocks have, therefore, a special 
value, as they afford indications (although imperfect ones), of the 
amount of excavation that has been performed by the glaciers 
which worked above and around them. 

5. In § 6 it was stated that the amount, in depth, of the matter 
which is removed constantly diminishes, if the power that is em- 
ployed continues to be the same. That is to say, if a glacier 1000 
feet thick, moving down a valley at the rate of 300 feet per annum, 
is able to remove a depth of one inch from the whole of those por- 
tions of the surfaces that it touches, in the course of one year, the 
amount that it will remove in the course of the next (assuming 
that the depth of 1000 feet is maintained, and the rate of motion 
is the same) will not be one inch, but will be something less ; 
because the power employed will be distributed over a greater area. 
It does not, however, follow that the bulk of the matter which is 
removed will be less and less from the very beginning. 


There cannot, however, be a doubt but that, after a certain lapse 
of time, the hulk of the matter removed becomes less and less. 

For these reasons. The rock that is removed is taken away by 
friction. Of two kinds. The first, of the foreign matter imbedded 
in the bottom of the glacier (or rolling underneath it) against the 
bed-rock, which foreign matter it has been already stated (§9) 
is derived from two sources — viz. from the rock-bed itself, and 
from masses which have fallen on to the surface of the glacier, and 
afterwards worked their way down. 

It is obvious, as the rocks which are being operated upon by 
the glacier become more and more smooth, that the supply from 
the first of these sources must constantly diminish. It is equally 
certain that when the rock-bed has lost many of its asperities, and 
the glacier — so to speak — fits more closely to it, the matter which 
falls from above has greater difficulty in getting between the ice 
and the rock-bed. Here are two ways of accounting for the fact 
that striations are rare or wanting upon roches nivelecs, and it will 
now be perceived why it was said (§9) that striations " indicate a 
comparatively early and coarse stage of glacier action." 

There remains to be considered the friction of the ice itself 
against the rock-bed. This, too, must diminish as the surfaces 
over which the glacier passes become smoother and flatter. The 
more thoroughly parallel the bottom of the glacier and the bed- 
rock are to each other, the less friction will there be, and the less 

There is therefore good reason to believe that not only is the 
depth of rock removed from any given place less and less year 
by year, but that the total amount of matter removed by the glacier 
constantly diminishes. Just as a smoothing-plane, that is set fine, 
will take shaving after shaving from a plank (each shaving being 
thinner than the last), and at length glides over the wood without 
producing any effect except a kind of rude polishing ; so a glacier, 
passing over rocks, takes shaving after shaving (in the form of sand 
or mud), and at length glides on, and puts the finishing touches, by 


polishing, to the surfaces which it had formerly prepared by rasping 
and filing. 

The calculations of the effects that have been produced by 
glacier agency, which are based on the assumption that the amount 
of material removed is the same from one year to another, are 
necessarily fallacious. There are not, moreover, any data from 
which the amount of work can be calculated that glaciers perform 
in any given time ; but there are indications in that direction, and, 
so far as they go, they seem to point to the conclusion that the 
effects which they have produced, in the way of making hollows, 
are much less important than many suppose. 

6. If I were asked whether the action of glacier upon rocks 
should be considered as chiefly destructive or conservative, I should 
answer, without hesitation, principally as conservative. It is de- 
structive, certainly, to a limited extent ; but, like a mason who 
dresses a column that is to be afterwards polished, the glacier 
removes a small portion of the stone upon which it works, in order 
that the rest may be more effectually preserved. By obliterating 
the inequalities of the rock, and, consequently, by reducing the 
area of the surfaces which are exposed to the atmosphere to a 
minimum, the glacier, when it retires, leaves the rock in the best 
possible condition to withstand the attacks of heat, cold, and 

It has been pointed out, times without number (even by those 
who are in the habit of accusing glaciers of the most frightful 
destructiveness), that the polished surfaces which they leave 
behind them seem to be imperishable. All who know are agreed 
that centuries, nay, thousands of years, pass away, and still the 
roches moutonnees retain their form. 

In regard to the action of the glacier, when it is in full life and 
activity, all are not so agreed. But when one finds evidence that 
glaciers which existed through vast periods of time did nothing 
more than round pre-existing weathered forms, dress rough and 



uneven surfaces, and did not even entirely destroy the destructive 
work of the older and greater powers : while those powers were at 
the same time delving into the rocks which the glaciers were not 
covering ; were not reducing the area of exposed surfaces, but, on 
the contrary, were continually increasing them, and were hurling 
down vast masses, of which but a small portion fell on to the 
glaciers (but which small portion probably equalled or exceeded 
in bulk all that the glaciers were removing), the conclusion can 
hardly be avoided that glaciers, in their life as well as after their 
death, either considered by themselves or in comparison with other 
powers, should be regarded as eminently conservative in their acts 
and in their intentions. 

We finished up the 3d of August with a walk over the Findelen 
glacier, and returned to Zermatt at a later hour than we intended, 
both very sleepy. This is noteworthy only on account of that which 
followed. We had to cross the Col de Valpelline on the next day, 
and an early start was desirable. Monsieur Seiler, excellent man, 
knowing this, called us himself, and when he came to my door, I 
answered, " All right, Seiler, I will get up," and immediately turned 
over to the other side, saying to myself, " First of all, ten minutes 
more sleep." But Seiler waited and listened, and, suspecting the 
case, knocked again. " Herr Whymper, have you got a light ?" 
Without thinking what the consequences might be, I answered, 
" No," and then the worthy man actually forced the lock off his own 
door to give me one. By similar and equally friendly and disinte- 
rested acts, Monsieur Seiler has acquired his enviable reputation. 

At 4 a.m. we left his Monte Bosa Hotel, and were soon 
pushing our way through the thickets of grey alder that skirt 
the path up the exquisite little valley which leads to the Z'mutt- 

Nothing can seem or be more inaccessible than the Matterhorn 

* The path on the right bank (southern side) of the valley is nmch more pic- 
turesque than that on the other side. For our route, see the maps of the valley of 
Zermatt and the valley of Valpelline. 


upon this side ; and even in cold blood one holds the breath when 
looking at its stupendous cliffs. There are but few equal to them in 
size in the Alps, and there are none which can more truly be termed 
precipices. Greatest of them all is the immense north cliff, — that 
which bends over towards the Z'muttgletscher. Stones which drop 
from the top of that amazing wall fall for about 1500 feet before 
they touch anything ; and those which roll down from above, and 
bound over it, fall to a much greater depth, and leap well nigh 
1000 feet beyond its base. This side of the mountain has always 
seemed sombre — sad — terrible ; it is painfully suggestive of decay, 
ruin, and death ; and it is now, alas ! more than terrible by its asso- 

" There is no aspect of destruction about the Matterhorn cliffs," 
says Professor Buskin. Granted ; — when they are seen from afar. 
But approach, and sit down by the side of the Z'muttgletscher, and 
you will hear that their piecemeal destruction is proceeding cease- 
lessly — incessantly. You will hear, but, probably, you will not see; 
for even when the descending masses thunder as loudly as heavy 
guns, and the echoes roll back from the Ebihorn opposite, they will 
still be as pin-points against this grand old face, so vast is its 
scale ! 

If you would see the ' aspects of destruction,' you must come 
still closer, and climb its cliffs and ridges, or mount to the plateau 
of the Matterhorngletscher, which is cut up and ploughed up by 
these missiles, and strewn on the surface with their smaller frag- 
ments ; the larger masses, falling with tremendous velocity, plunge 
into the snow and are lost to sight. 

The Matterhorngletscher, too, sends down its avalanches, as if in 
rivalry with the rocks behind. Bound the whole of its northern 
side it does not terminate in the usual manner by gentle slopes, 
but comes to a sudden end at the top of the steep rocks which lie 
betwixt it and the Z'muttgletscher ; and seldom does an hour pass 
without a huge slice breaking away, and falling with dreadful 
uproar on to the slopes below, where it is re-compacted. 


The desolate, outside pines of the Z'mutt forests, stripped of 
their bark, and blanched by the weather, are a fit foreground to a 
scene that can hardly be surpassed in solemn grandeur. It is a 
subject worthy of the pencil of a great painter, and one which 
would tax the powers of the very greatest. 

Higher up the glacier the mountain is less savage in appear- 
ance, but it is not less impracticable ; and, three hours later, when 
we arrived at the island of rock, called the Stockje (which marks 
the end of the Z'muttgletscher proper, and which separates its 
higher feeder, the Stockgletscher, from its lower but greater one, the 
Tiefenmatten), Carrel himself, one of the least demonstrative of 
men, could not refrain from expressing wonder at the steepness of 
its faces, and at the audacity that had prompted us to camp upon 
the south-west ridge ; the profile of which is seen very well from 
the Stockje* Carrel then saw the north and north-west sides of the 
mountain for the first time, and was more firmly persuaded than 
ever, that an ascent was possible only from the direction of Breil. 

Three years afterwards I was traversing the same spot with the 
guide Franz Biener, when all at once a puff of wind brought to us 
a very bad smell ; and, on looking about, we discovered a dead 
chamois half-way up the southern cliffs of the Stockje. We clam- 
bered up, and found that it had been killed by a most uncommon 
and extraordinary accident. It had slipped on the upper rocks, 
had rolled over and over down a slope of debris, without being able 
to regain its feet, had fallen over a little patch of rocks that pro- 
jected through the debris, and had caught the points of both 

* Professor Ruskin's view of " the Cervin from the north-west " {Modem Painters, 
vol. iv.) is taken from the Stockje. The Col du Lion is the little depression on the 
ridge, close to the margin of the engraving, on the right hand side ; the third tent- 
platform was formed at the foot of the perpendicular cliff, on the ridge, exactly one- 
third way between the Col du Lion and the summit. The battlemented portion of 
the ridge, a little higher up, is called the " crtte du coq ; " and the nearly horizontal 
portion of the ridge above it is " the shoulder. " It is high testimony to the accuracy 
of Mr. Ruskin's work that it is possible to point out minutiae such as these upon an 
engraving that was published fourteen years ago. 


horns on a tiny ledge, not an inch broad. It had just been able 
to touch the debris, where it led away down from the rocks, and 
had pawed and scratched until it could no longer touch. It had 
evidently been starved to death, and we found the poor beast almost 
swinging in the air, with its head thrown back and tongue protrud- 
ing, looking to the sky as if imploring help. 

We had no such excitement as this in 1863, and crossed this 
easy pass to the chalets of Prerayen in a very leisurely fashion. 
From the summit to Prerayen let us descend in one step. The 
way has been described before ; and those who wish for informa- 
tion about it should consult the description of Mr. Jacomb, the 
discoverer of the pass* Nor need we stop at Prerayen, except to 
remark that the owner of the chalets (who is usually taken for a 
common herdsman) must not be judged by appearances. He is a 
man of substance ; he has many flocks and herds ; and although, 
when approached politely, is courteous, he can (and probably will) 
act as the master of Prerayen, if his position is not recognised, and 
with all the importance of a man who pays taxes to the extent of 
500 francs per annum to his government. 

The hill-tops were clouded when we rose from our hay on the 
5th of August. We decided not to continue the tour of our 
mountain immediately, and returned over our track of the pre- 

* Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers — second series. 

The summit of the Col de Yalpelline is about 11,650 feet above the sea. The 
pass is the easiest one in the Alps of this height, and (if the best route is followed) 
it may be crossed during fine weather, and under favourable circumstances, without 
cutting a single step. It may be added, at the same time, that if one does not take 
the best route, the pass may become one of first-rate difficulty. Much time and 
trouble will be saved by strictly adhering to the left bank (eastern side) of the 
Zardesan glacier. Mr. Jacomb followed the right bank. 

There is a very fine view from the point that is situated about two-thirds of a 
mile S. by E. of the summit of the Col. This point (marked 3813 metres = 12, 410 
feet, on the map of the Valley of Zermatt) has no name. It is connected with the 
Col by snow-covered glacier at a very moderate angle, and from it one looks well 
over the Tete Blanche, which is 200 feet less in elevation. It was ascended by the 
author in 1866. 


ceding day to the highest chalet on the left bank of the valley,* 
with the intention of attacking the Dent d'Erin on the next 
morning. We were interested in this summit, more on account of 
the excellent view which it commanded of the south-west ridge 
and the terminal peak of the Matterhorn, than from any other 

The Dent d'Erin had not been ascended at this time, and we 
had diverged from our route on the 4th, and had scrambled some 
distance up the base of Mont Brule, to see how far its south- 
western slopes were assailable. We were divided in opinion as to 
the best way of approaching the peak. Carrel, true to his habit 
of sticking to rocks in preference to ice, counselled ascending by 
the long buttress of the Tete de Bella Cia (which descends towards 
the west, and forms the southern boundary of the last glacier that 
falls into the Glacier de Zardesan), and thence traversing the heads 
of all the tributaries of the Zardesan to the western and rocky 
ridge of the Dent. I, on the other hand, proposed to follow the 
Glacier de Zardesan itself throughout its entire length, and from 
the plateau at its head (where my proposed route would cross 
Carrel's) to make directly towards the summit, up the snow- 
covered glacier slope, instead of by the western ridge. The 
hunchback, who was accompanying us on these excursions, 
declared in favour of Carrel's route, and it was accordingly 

The first part of the programme was successfully executed ; 
and at 10.30 a.m. on the 6th of August, we were sitting astride 
the western ridge, at a height of about 12,500 feet, looking down 
upon the Tiefenmatten glacier. To all appearance another hour 
would place us on the summit ; but in another hour we found 

* See map of the Valley of Valpelline. The chalet is marked " la vielle." 
The reader will probably notice the discrepancies between this part of the map of 
the Valley of Zermatt and that of the Valley of Valpelline. The latter one is 
correct. The former is after the Swiss Government map, which is extremely 
accurate on the Swiss side of the frontier line, but does not pretend to be so on the 
Italian side. 

chap. vr. ON THE DENT UERTN {OR D'HERENS). 1 59 

that we were not destined to succeed. The ridge (like all of 
the principal rocky ridges of the great peaks upon which I have 
stood) had been completely shattered by frost, and was nothing 
more than a heap of piled-up fragments. It was always narrow, 
and where it was narrowest it was also the most unstable and the 
most difficult. On neither side could we ascend it by keeping a 
little below its crest, — on the side of the Tiefenmatten because it 
was too steep, and on both sides because the dislodgment of a 
single block would have disturbed the equilibrium of all those 
which were above. Forced, therefore, to keep to the very crest of 
the ridge, and unable to deviate a single step either to the right or 
to the left, we were compelled to trust ourselves upon unsteady 
masses, which trembled under our tread, which sometimes settled 
down, grating in a hollow and ominous manner, and which seemed 
as if a little shake would send the whole roaring down in one 
awful avalanche. 

I followed my leader, who said not a word, and did not rebel 
until we came to a place where a block had to be surmounted 
which lay poised across the ridge. Carrel could not climb it 
without assistance, or advance beyond it until I joined him above ; 
and as he stepped off my back on to it, I felt it quiver and bear 
down upon me. I doubted the possibility of another man standing 
upon it without bringing it down. Then I rebelled. There was 
no honour to be gained by persevering, or dishonour in turning 
from a place which was dangerous on account of its excessive 
difficulty. So we returned to Prerayen, for there was too little 
time to allow us to re-ascend by the other route, which was subse- 
quently shown to be the right way up the mountain. 

Four days afterwards a party of Englishmen (including my 
friends, W. E. Hall, Crauford Grove, and Reginald Macdonald), 
arrived in the Valpelline, and (unaware of our attempt) on the 
12th, under the skilful guidance of Melchior Anderegg, made the 
first ascent of the Dent d'Erin by the route which I had proposed. 
This is the only mountain which I have essayed to ascend, that 


has not, sooner or later, fallen to me. Our failure was mortifying, 
but I am satisfied that we did wisely in returning, and that if we 
had persevered, by Carrel's route, another Alpine accident would 
have been recorded. I have not heard that another ascent has 
been made of the Dent d'Erin.* 

On the 7th of August we crossed the Va Cornere pass,-f- and 
had a good look at the mountain named the Grand Tournalin as 
we descended the Yal de Chignana. This mountain was seen from 
so many points, and was so much higher than any peak in its 
immediate neighbourhood, that it was bound to give a very fine 
view ; and (as the weather continued unfavourable for the Matter- 
horn) I arranged with Carrel to ascend it the next day, and 
despatched him direct to the village of Yal Tournanche to make 
the necessary preparations, whilst I, with Meynet, made a short 

* On p. 10 it is stated that there was not a pass from Prerayen to Breil in 1860, 
and this is correct. On July 8, 1868, my enterprising guide, Jean-Antoine Carrel, 
started from Breil at 2 A.M. with a well-known comrade — J. Baptiste Bic, of Val 
Tournanche — to endeavour to make one. They went towards the glacier which 
descends from the Dent d'Erin to the south-east, and on arriving at its base, ascended 
at first by some snow between it and the cliffs on its south, and afterwards took to 
the cliffs themselves. [This glacier they called the glacier of Mont Albert, after the 
local name of the peak which on Mr. Reilly's map of the Valpelline is called ' Les 
Jumeaux.' On Mr. Reilly's map the glacier is called 'Glacier d'Erin.'] They 
ascended the rocks to a considerable height, and then struck across the glacier, 
towards the north, to a small ' rognon ' (isolated patch of rocks) that is nearly in the 
centre of the glacier. They passed above this, and between it and the great seracs. 
Afterwards their route led them towards the Dent d'Erin, and they arrived at the 
base of its final peak by mounting a couloir (gully filled with snow), and the rocks at 
the head of the glacier. They gained the summit of their pass at 1 p.m., and, 
descending by the glacier of Zardesan, arrived at Prerayen at 6.30 p.m. 

As their route joins that taken by Messrs. Hall, Grove, and Macdonald, on their 
ascent of the Dent d'Erin in 1863, it is evident that that mountain can be ascended 
from Breil. Carrel considers that the route taken by himself and his comrade Bic 
can be improved upon ; and, if so, it is possible that the ascent of the Dent d'Erin 
can be made from Breil in less time than from Prerayen. Breil is very much to be 
preferred as a starting-point. 

t See p. 11. The height of this pass, according to Canon Carrel, is 10,335 

chap. vi. MONEY NO OBJECT. 161 

cut to Breil, at the back of Mont Panquero, by a little pass 
locally known as the Col de Fenetre. I rejoined Carrel the same 
evening at Val Tournanche, and we started from that place at a 
little before 5 a.m. on the 8th, to attack the Tournalin. 

Meynet was left behind for that day, and most unwillingly did 
the hunchback part from us, and begged hard to be allowed to 
come. " Pay me nothing, only let me go with you ; " "I shall 
want but a little bread and cheese, and of that I won't eat much ; " 
" I would much rather go with you than carry things down the 
valley." Such were his arguments, and I was really sorry that the 
rapidity of our movements obliged us to desert the good little 

Carrel led over the meadows on the south and east of the bluff 
upon which the village of Yal Tournanche is built, arid then by a 
zig-zag path through a long and steep forest, making many short 
cuts, which showed he had a thorough knowledge of the ground. 
After we came again into daylight, our route took us up one of 
those little, concealed, lateral valleys which are so numerous on the 
slopes bounding the Yal Tournanche. 

This valley, the Combe de Ceneil, has a general easterly trend, 
and contains but one small cluster of houses (Ceneil). The Tour- 
nalin is situated at the head of the Combe, and nearly due east of 
the village of Yal Tournanche, but from that place no part of the 
mountain is visible. After Ceneil is passed it comes into view, 
rising above a cirque of cliffs (streaked by several fine waterfalls), 
at the end of the Combe. To avoid these cliffs the path bends 
somewhat to the south, keeping throughout to the left bank of the 
valley, and at about 3500 feet above Yal Tournanche, and 1500 
feet above Ceneil and a mile or so to its east, arrives at the base of 
some moraines, which are remarkably large considering the dimen- 
sions of the glaciers which formed them. The ranges upon the 
western side of the Yal Tournanche are seen to great advantage 
from this spot ; but here the path ends and the way steepens. 

When we arrived at these moraines, we had a choice of two 



routes. One ; continuing to the east, over the moraines themselves, 
the debris above them, and a large snow-bed still higher up, to a 
kind of col or depression to the south of the peak, from whence an 
easy ridge led towards the summit. The other, over a shrunken 
glacier on our north-east (now, perhaps, not in existence), which 
led to a well-marked col on the north of the peak, from whence 
a less easy ridge rose directly to the highest point. We followed 
the first named of these routes, and in a little more than half-an- 
hour stood upon the Col, which commanded a most glorious view 
of the southern side of Monte Kosa, and of the ranges to its east, 
and to the east of the Yal d'Ayas. 

Whilst we were resting at this point a large party of vagrant 
chamois arrived on the summit of the mountain from the northern 
side, some of whom — by their statuesque position — seemed to ap- 
preciate the grand panorama by which they were surrounded, 
while others amused themselves, like two-legged tourists, in rolling 
stones over the cliffs. The clatter of these falling fragments made 
us look up. The chamois were so numerous that Ave could not 
count them ; clustered around the summit, totally unaware of our 
presence ; and they scattered in a panic, as if a shell had burst 
amongst them, when saluted by the cries of my excited comrade ; 
plunging wildly down in several directions, with unfaltering and 
unerring bounds, with such speed and with such grace that w T e 
were filled with admiration and respect for their mountaineering 

The ridge that led from the Col towards the summit was 
singularly easy, although well broken up by frost, and Carrel 
thought that it would not be difficult to arrange a path for mules 
out of the shattered blocks ; but when we arrived on the summit 
we found ourselves separated from the very highest point by 
a cleft which had been concealed up to that time : its southern 
side was nearly perpendicular, but it w r as only fourteen or fifteen 
feet dee]). Carrel lowered me down, and afterwards descended on 
to the head of my axe, and subsequently on to my shoulders, with 






a cleverness which was almost as far removed from my awkward- 
ness as his own efforts were from those of the chamois. A few 
easy steps then placed us on the highest 
point. It had not been ascended before, 
and we commemorated the event by 
building a huge cairn, which was seen 
for many a mile, and would have lasted 
for many a year, had it not been thrown 
down by the orders of Canon Carrel, 
on account of its interrupting the sweep 
of a camera which he took to the lower 
summit in 1868, in order to photograph 
the panorama. According to that well- 
known mountaineer, the summit of the 
Grand Tournalin is 6100 feet above the 
village of Val Tournanche, and 11,155 
feet above the sea. Its ascent (including 
halts) occupied us only four hours. 

I recommend the ascent of the Tour- 
nalin to any person who has a day to 
spare in the Val Tournanche. It should 
be remembered, however (if its ascent is 
made for the sake of the view), that 
these southern Pennine Alps seldom re- 
main unclouded after mid-day, and, indeed, frequently not later 
than 10 or 11 a.m. Towards sunset the equilibrium of the atmo- 
sphere is restored, and the clouds very commonly disappear. 

I advise the ascent of this mountain not on account of its 
height, or from its accessibility or inaccessibility, but simply for 
the wide and splendid view which may be seen from its summit. 
Its position is superb, and the list of the peaks which can be seen 
from it includes almost the whole of the principal mountains of the 
Cottian, Dauphine, Graian, Pennine, and Oberland groups. The 
view has, in the highest perfection, those elements of picturesqne- 



ness which are wanting in the purely panoramic views of higher 
summits. There are three principal sections, each with a central 
or dominating point, to which the eye is naturally drawn. All 
three alike are pictures in themselves ; yet all are dissimilar. In 
the south, softened by the vapours of the Val d'Aoste, extends the 
long line of the Graians, with mountain after mountain 12,000 feet 
and upwards in height. It is not upon these, noble as some of 
them are, that the eye will rest, but upon the Viso, far off in the 
background. In the west and towards the north the range of Mont 
Blanc, and some of the greatest of the Central Pennine Alps (in- 
cluding the Grand Combin and the Dent Blanche), form the back- 
ground, but they are overpowered by the grandeur of the ridges 
which culminate in the Matterhorn. Nor in the east and north, 
where pleasant grassy slopes lead downwards to the Val d'Ayas, nor 
upon the glaciers and snow-fields above them, nor upon the Oberland 
in the background, will the eye long linger, when immediately in 
front, several miles away, but seeming close at hand, thrown out 
by the pure azure sky, there are the glittering crests of Monte 

Those who would, but cannot, stand upon the highest Alps, may 
console themselves with the knowledge that they do not usually 
yield the views that make the strongest and most permanent im- 
pressions. Marvellous some of the panoramas seen from the 
greatest peaks undoubtedly are ; but they are necessarily without 
those isolated and central points which are so valuable pictorially. 
The eye roams over a multitude of objects (each, perhaps, grand 
individually), and, distracted by an embarrassment of riches, wanders 
from one to another, erasing by the contemplation of the next the 
effect that was produced by the last ; and when those happy 
moments are over, which always fly with too great rapidity, the 
summit is left with an impression that is seldom durable, because 
it is usually vague. 

No views create such lasting impressions as those which are 
seen but for a moment, when a veil of mist is rent in twain, and a 

chap. vi. ON PANORAMIC VIEWS. 165 

single spire or dome is disclosed. The peaks which are seen at 
these moments are not, perhaps, the greatest or the noblest, but the 
recollection of them outlives the memory of any panoramic view, 
because the picture, photographed by the eye, has time to dry, 
instead of being blurred, while yet wet, by contact with other im- 
pressions. The reverse is the case with the bird's-eye panoramic 
views from the great peaks, which sometimes embrace a hundred 
miles in nearly every direction. The eye is confounded by the 
crowd of details, and unable to distinguish the relative importance 
of the objects which are seen. It is almost as difficult to form a 
just estimate (with the eye) of the respective heights of a number 
of peaks from a very high summit, as it is from the bottom of a 
valley. I think that the grandest and the most satisfactory stand- 
points for viewing mountain scenery are those which are sufficiently 
elevated to give a feeling of depth, as well as of height, which are 
lofty enough to exhibit wide and varied views, but not so high as 
to sink everything to the level of the spectator. The view from the 
Grand Tournalin is a favourable example of this class of panoramic 

We descended from the summit by the northern route, and 
found it tolerably stiff clambering as far as the Col ; but thence, 
down the glacier, the way was straightforward, and we joined the 
route taken on the ascent at the foot of the ridge leading towards 
the east. In the evening we returned to Breil. 

There is an abrupt rise in the valley about two miles to the 
north of the village of Val Tournanche, and just above this step 
the torrent has eaten its way into its bed and formed an extra- 
ordinary chasm, which has long been known by the name Gouffre des 
Busserailles. We lingered about this spot to listen to the thunder 
of the concealed water, and to watch its tumultuous boiling as it 
issued from the gloomy cleft, but our efforts to peer into the 
mysteries of the place were baffled. In November 1865, the 
intrepid Carrel induced two trusty comrades — the Maquignaz's of 
Val Tournanche — to lower him by a rope into the chasm and over 


the cataract. The feat required iron nerves, and muscles and 
sinews of no ordinary kind ; and its performance alone stamps 
Carrel as a man of dauntless courage. One of the Maquignaz's subse- 
quently descended in the same way, and these two men were so 
astonished at what they saw, that they forthwith set to work with 
hammer and chisel to make a way into this romantic gulf. In a 
few days they constructed a rough but convenient plank gallery 
into the centre of the gouffre, along its walls ; and, on payment of 
a toll of half-a-franc, any one can now enter the Gouffre des 

I cannot, without a couple of sections and a plan, give an exact 
idea to the reader of this remarkable place. It corresponds in 
some of its features to the gorge figured upon page 140, but it ex- 
hibits in a much more notable manner the characteristic action and 
power of running water. The length of the chasm or gouffre is 
about 320 feet, and from the top of its walls to the surface of the 
water is about 110 feet. At no part can the entire length or 
depth be seen at a glance ; for, although the width at some places 
is 15 feet or more, the view is limited by the sinuosities of the 
walls. These are everywhere polished to a smooth, vitreous-in-ap- 
pearance surface, In some places the torrent has wormed into 
the rock, and has left natural bridges. The most extraordinary 
features of the Gouffre des Busserailles, however, are the caverns (or 
marmites as they are termed), which the water has hollowed out 
of the heart of the rock. Carrel's plank path leads into one of the 
greatest, — a grotto that is about 28 feet across at its largest 
diameter, and 15 or 16 feet high ; roofed above by the living 
rock, and with the torrent roaring 50 feet or thereabouts below, at 
the bottom of a fissure. This cavern is lighted by candles, and 
talking in it can only be managed by signs. 

I visited the interior of the gouffre in 1869, and my wonder at 
its caverns was increased by observing the hardness of the horn- 
blende out of which they have been hollowed. Carrel chiselled off 
a large piece, which is now lying before me. It has a highly 

chap. vi. GO UFFRE DES B WSERA ILLES. 1 6 7 

polished, glassy surface, and might be mistaken, for a moment, for 
ice-polished rock. But the water has found out the atoms which 
were least hard, and it is dotted all over by minute depressions, 
much as the face of one is who has suffered from smallpox. 
The edges of these little hollows are rounded, and the whole sur- 
faces of the depressions are polished nearly, or quite, as highly as 
the general surface of the fragment* The water has drilled more 
deeply into some veins of steatite than in other places, and the 
presence of the steatite may possibly have had something to do 
with the formation of the gouffre. 

I arrived at Breil again after an absence of six days, well satis- 
fied with my tour of the Matterhorn, which had been rendered very 
pleasant by the willingness of my guides, and by the kindliness of 
the natives. But it must be admitted that the inhabitants of the 
Val Tournanche are behind the times. Their paths are as bad as, 
or worse than, they were in the time of De Saussure, and their inns 
are much inferior to those on the Swiss side. If it were otherwise 
there would be nothing to prevent the valley becoming one of the 
most popular and frequented of all the valleys in the Alps ; but, as 
it is, tourists who enter it seem to think only about how soon they 
can get out of it, and hence it is much less known than it deserves 
to be on account of its natural attractions. 

I believe that the great hindrance to the improvement of the 
paths in the Italian valleys generally is the wide-spread impression 
that the innkeepers would alone directly benefit by any amelioration 
of their condition. To a certain extent this view is correct ; but 
inasmuch as the prosperity of the natives is connected with that of 
the innkeepers, the interests of both are pretty nearly identical. 
Until their paths are rendered less rough and swampy, I think the 
Italians must submit to see the golden harvest principally reaped 
in Switzerland and Savoy. At the same time, let the innkeepers 
look to the commissariat. Their supplies are not unfrequently 

The depressions in glaciated rocks (which are not water-worn) are more or less 
angular. See p. 148. 


deficient in quantity, and, according to my experience, very 
often deplorable in quality. 

I will not venture to criticise in detail the dishes which are 
brought to table, since I am profoundly ignorant of their constitu- 
tion. It is commonly said amongst Alpine tourists that goat flesh 
represents mutton, and mule does service for beef and chamois. I 
reserve my own opinion upon this point until it has been shown 
what becomes of all the dead mules. But I may say, I hope, with- 
out wounding the susceptibilities of my acquaintances among the 
Italian innkeepers, that it would tend to smoothen their intercourse 
with their guests if requests for solid food were less frequently 
regarded as criminal. The deprecating airs with which inquiries 
for really substantial food are received always remind me of a 
Dauphine innkeeper, who remarked that he had heard a good many 
tourists travel in Switzerland. " Yes," I answered, " there are a 
good many." "How many?" "Well," I said, "I hove seen a 
hundred or more sit down at a table d'hote." He lifted up his 
hands — "Why," said he, "they would want meat every day!" 
" Yes, that is not improbable." " In that case," he replied, " / 
think we are better without them? 



" But mighty Jove cuts short, with just disdain, 
The long, long views of poor, designing man." 


Carrel had carte blanche in the matter of guides, and his choice fell 
upon his relative Caesar, Luc Meynet, and two others whose names 
I do not know. These men were now brought together, and our 
preparations were completed, as the weather was clearing up. 

We rested on Sunday, August 9, eagerly watching the lessening 
of the mists around the great peak, and started just before dawn 
upon the 10th, on a still and cloudless morning, which seemed to 
promise a happy termination to our enterprise. 

By going always, but gently, we arrived upon the Col du Lion 
before nine o'clock. Changes were apparent. Familiar ledges had 
vanished ; the platform, whereupon my tent had stood, looked very 
forlorn, its stones had been scattered by wind and frost, and had half 
disappeared ; and the summit of the Col itself, which in 1862 had 
always been respectably broad, and covered by snow, was now sharper 
than the ridge of any church-roof, and was hard ice. Already we 
had found that the bad weather of the past week had done its work. 
The rocks for several hundred feet below the Col were varnished with 
ice. Loose, incoherent snow covered the older and harder beds 
below, and we nearly lost our leader through its treacherousness. 
He stepped on some snow which seemed firm, and raised his axe 
to deliver a swinging blow, but, just as it was highest, the crust of 

* A brief account of this excursion was published in the Athenccum, August 29, 1863. 



the slope upon which he stood broke away, and poured down in 
serpentine streams, leaving long, bare strips, which glittered in the 
sun, for they were glassy ice. Carrel, with admirable readiness, 
flung himself back on to the rock off which he had stepped, and was 
at once secured. He simply remarked, " It is time we were tied up," 
and, after we had been tied up, he went to work again as if nothing 
had happened.* 

We had abundant illustrations during the next two hours of the 
value of a rope to climbers. We were tied up rather widely apart, 
and advanced, generally, in pairs. Carrel, who led, was followed 
closely by another man, who lent him a shoulder or placed an axe- 
head under bis feet, when there was need ; and when this couple 
were well placed the second pair advanced, in similar fashion, — 
the rope being drawn in by those above, and paid out gradually by 
those below. The leading men again advanced, or the third pair, 
and so on. This manner of progression was slow, but sure. One 
man only moved at a time, and if he slipped (and we frequently did 
slip) he could slide scarcely a foot without being checked by the 
others. The certainty and safety of the method gave confidence to 
the one who was moving, and not only nerved him to put out his 
powers to the utmost, but sustained nerve in really difficult situa- 
tions. For these rocks (which, it has been already said, were easy 
enough under ordinary circumstances) were now difficult in a high 
degree. The snow-water which had trickled down for many days 
past in little streams, had taken, naturally, the very route by which 
we wished to ascend ; and, refrozen in the night, had glazed the 
slabs over which we had to pass, — sometimes with a fine film of ice 
as thin as a sheet of paper, and sometimes so thickly that we could 

* This incident occurred close to the place represented in the engraving facing p. 
120. The new, dry snow was very troublesome, and poured down like flour into the 
steps which were cut across the slopes. The front man accordingly moved ahead as 
far as possible, and anchored himself to rocks. A rope was sent across to him, was 
fixed at each end, and was held as a rail by the others as they crossed. We did not 
trust to this rope alone, but were tied in the usual manner. The second rope was 
employed as an additional security against slips. 

chap. vii. EXTREMES MEET. 171 

almost cut footsteps in it. The weather was superb, the men 
made light of the toil, and shouted to rouse the echoes from the 
Dent d'Herens. 

We went on gaily, passed the second tent platform, the Chimney, 
and the other well-remembered points, and reckoned, confidently, 
on sleeping that night upon the top of " the shoulder ;" but, before 
we had well arrived at the foot of the Great Tower, a sudden rush 
of cold air warned us to look out. 

It was difficult to say where this air came from ; it did not 
blow as a wind, but descended rather as the water in shower-bath ! 
All was tranquil again ; the atmosphere shoived no signs of disturb- 
ance ; there was a dead calm, and not a speck of cloud to be seen 
anywhere. But we did not remain very long in this state. The cold 
air came again, and this time it was difficult to say where it did not 
come from. We jammed down our hats as it beat against the ridge, 
and screamed amongst the crags. Before we had got to the foot of 
the Tower, mists had been formed above and below. They appeared 
at first in small, isolated patches (in several places at the same time), 
which danced and jerked and were torn into shreds by the wind, 
but grew larger under the process. They were united together, and 
rent again, — showing us the blue sky for a moment, and blotting it 
out the next ; and augmented incessantly, until the whole heavens 
were filled with whirling, boiling clouds. Before we could take off 
our packs, and get under any kind of shelter, a hurricane of snow 
burst upon us from the east. It fell so thickly that in a few minutes 
the ridge was covered by it. " What shall we do ?" I shouted to 
Carrel " Monsieur," said he, " the wind is bad ; the weather has 
changed ; we are heavily laden. Here is a fine gite ; let us stop ! 
If we go on we shall be half-frozen. That is my opinion." No 
one differed from him ; so we fell to work to make a place for the 
tent, and in a couple of hours completed the platform which we 
had commenced in 1862. The clouds had blackened during that 
time, and we had hardly finished our task before a thunderstorm 
broke upon us with appalling fury. Forked lightning shot out at 


the turrets above, and at the crags below. It was so close that we 
quailed at its darts. It seemed to scorch us, — we were in the very 
focus of the storm. The thunder was simultaneous with the flashes ; 
short and sharp, and more like the noise of a door that is violently 
slammed, multiplied a thousand-fold, than any noise to which I can 
compare it. 

When I say that the thunder was simultaneous with the light- 
ning, I speak as an inexact person. My meaning is that the 
time which elapsed between seeing the flash and hearing the 
report was inappreciable to me. I wish to speak with all possible 
precision, and there are two points in regard to this storm upon 
which I can speak with some accuracy. The first is in regard to 
the distance of the lightning from our party. We might have been 
1100 feet from it if a second of time had elapsed between seeing 
the flashes and hearing the reports ; and a second of time is not 
appreciated by inexact persons. It was certain that we were 
sometimes less than that distance from the lightning, because I 
saw it pass in front of well-known points on the ridge, both above 
and below us, which were less (sometimes considerably less) than 
a thousand feet distant. 

Secondly, in regard to the difficulty of distinguishing sounds 
which are merely echoes from true thunder, or the noise which 
occurs simultaneously with lightning. Arago entered into this 
subject at some length in his Meteorological Essays, and seemed to 
doubt if it would ever be possible to determine whether echoes are 
always the cause of the rolling sounds commonly called thunder.* 
I shall not attempt to show whether the rolling sounds should 
ever, or never, be regarded as true thunder, but only that during 
this storm upon the Matterhorn it was possible to distinguish the 
sound of the thunder itself from the sounds (rolling and otherwise) 
which were merely the echoes of the first, original sound. 

* "There is, therefore, little hope of thus arriving at anything decisive as to the 
exact part which echoes take in the production of the rolling sound of thunder. " 
P. 165, English ed., translated by Col. Sabine : Longmans, 1855. 

chap. vii. ECHOES OF THUNDER, 173 

At the place where we were camped a remarkable echo could 
be heard (one so remarkable that if it could be heard in this 
country it would draw crowds for its own sake) ; T believe it came 
from the cliffs of the Dent d'Herens. It was a favourite amuse- 
ment with us to shout to rouse this echo, which repeated any sharp 
cry, in a very distinct manner, several times, after the lapse of 
something like a dozen seconds. The thunderstorm lasted nearly 
two hours, and raged at times with great fury ; and the prolonged 
rollings from the surrounding mountains, after one flash, had not 
usually ceased before another set of echoes took up the discourse, 
and maintained the reverberations without a break. Occasionally 
there was a pause, interrupted presently by a single clap, the 
accompaniment of a single discharge, and after such times I could 
recognise the echoes from the Dent d'Herens by their peculiar repe- 
titions, and by the length of time which had passed since the reports 
had occurred of which they were the echoes. 

If I had been unaware of the existence of this echo, I should 
have supposed that the resounds were original reports of explosions 
which had been unnoticed, since in intensity they were scarcely 
distinguishable from the true thunder ; which, during this storm, 
seemed to me, upon every occasion, to consist of a single, harsh, 
instantaneous sound.* 

Or if, instead of being placed at a distance of less than a 
thousand feet from the points of explosion (and consequently hear- 
ing the report almost in the same moment as we saw the flash, and 

* The same lias seemed to me to be the case at all times when I have been close 
to the points of explosion. There has been always a distinct interval between the 
first explosion and the rolling sounds and secondary explosions which I have believed 
to be merely echoes ; but it has never been possible (except in the above-mentioned 
case) to identify them as such. 

Others have observed the same. " The geologist, Professor Theobald, of Chur, 
who was in the Solferino storm, between the Tschiertscher and Urden Alp, in the 
electric clouds, says that the peals were short, like cannon shots, but of a clearer, 
more cracking tone, and that the rolling of the thunder was only heard further on." 
Berlcpsch's Alps, English cd., p. 133. 


the rollings after a considerable interval of time), we had been 
placed so that the original report had fallen on our ears nearly at 
the same moment as the echoes, we should probably have con- 
sidered that the successive reports and rollings of the echoes were 
reports of successive explosions occurring nearly at the same 
moment, and that they were not echoes at all. 

This is the only time (out of many storms witnessed in the 
Alps) I have obtained evidence that the rollings of thunder are 
actually echoes ; and that they are not, necessarily, the reports of 
a number of discharges over a long line, occurring at varying 
distances from the spectator, and consequently unable to arrive at 
his ear at the same moment, although they follow each other so 
swiftly as to produce a sound more or less continuous 


The wind during all this time seemed to blow tolerably con- 
sistently from the east. It smote the tent so vehemently (notwith - 
standing it was partly protected by rocks) that we had grave fears 
our refuge might be blown away bodily, with ourselves inside ; so, 
during some of the lulls, we issued out and built a wall to wind- 
ward. At half-past three the wind changed to the north-west, and 
the clouds vanished. We immediately took the opportunity to 
send down one of the porters (under protection of some of the 
others, a little beyond the Col du Lion), as the tent would accom- 
modate only five persons. From this time to sunset the weather 
was variable. It was sometimes blowing and snowing hard, and 
sometimes a dead calm. The bad weather was evidently confined 
to the Mont Cervin, for when the clouds lifted we could see every- 

* Mr. J. Glaislier lias frequently pointed out that all sounds in balloons at some 
distance from the earth are notable for their brevity. "It is one sound only ; there 
is no reverberation, no reflection ; and this is characteristic of all sounds in the balloon, 
one clear sound, continuing during its own vibrations, then gone in a moment." 
{Good Words, 1863, p. 224.) 

I learn from Mr. Glaislier that the thunder claps which have been heard by him 
during his ' travels in the air ' have been no exception to the general rule, and the 
absence of rolling has fortified his belief that the rolling sounds which accompany 
thunder are echoes, and echoes only. 




chap. vii. NOCTURNAL ALARMS. 175 

thing that could be seen from our gite. Monte Viso, a hundred 
miles off, was clear, and the sun set gorgeously behind the range of 
Mont Blanc. We passed the night comfortably — even luxuriously 
— in our blanket-bags, but there was little chance of sleeping, be- 
tween the noise of the wind, of the thunder, and of the falling- 
rocks. I forgave the thunder for the sake of the lightning. A 
more splendid spectacle than its illumination of the Matterhorn 
crags I do not expect to see* 

The greatest rock-falls always seemed to occur in the night, 
between midnight and daybreak. This was noticeable on each of 
the seven nights which I passed upon the south-west ridge, at 
heights varying from 11,800 to 13,000 feet. 

I may be wrong in supposing that the falls in the night are 
greater than those in the daytime, since sound causes much more 
effect during darkness than when the cause of its production is 
seen. Even a sigh may be terrible in the stillness of the night. 
In the daytime one's attention is probably divided between the 
sound and the motion of rocks which fall ; or it may be concentrated 
on other matters. But it is certain that the greatest of the falls 
which happened during the night took place after midnight, and 
this I connect with the fact that the maximum of cold during 
any twenty-four hours very commonly occurs between midnight 
and dawn. 

We turned out at 3.30 A.M. on the 11th, and were dismayed to 
find that it still continued to snow. At 9 a.m. the snow ceased to 
fall, and the sun showed itself feebly, so we packed up our baggage, 
and set out to try to get upon " the shoulder." We struggled up- 
wards until eleven o'clock, and then it commenced to snow again. 
We held a council ; the opinions expressed at it were unanimous 
against advancing, and I decided to retreat. For we had risen less 
than 300 feet in the past two hours, and had not even arrived at 
the rope which Tyndall's party left behind, attached to the rocks, 

* See Appendix for the experiences of Mr. R. B. Heathcote during a thunderstorm 
on the Matterhorn in 1869. 




in 18G2. At the same rate of progression it would have taken us 
from four to five hours to get upon u the shoulder." Not one of us 
cared to attempt to do so under the existing circumstances ; for 
besides having to move our own weight, which was sufficiently 
troublesome at this part of the ridge, we had to transport much 
heavy baggage, tent, blankets, and provisions, ladder, and 450 feet 
of rope, besides many other smaller matters. These, however, were 
not the most serious considerations. Supposing that we got upon 
"the shoulder," we might find ourselves detained there several 
days, unable either to go up or down* I could not risk any such 
detention, being under obligations to appear in London at the end 
of the week. 

We got to Breil in the course of the afternoon ; it was quite 
fine there, and the tenants of the inn received our statements with 

evident scepticism. They were as- 
tonished to learn that we had been 
exposed to a snow-storm of twenty- 
six hours' duration. "Why," said 
Favre, the innkeeper, "we have had 
no snow ; it has been fine all the 
time you have been absent, and 
there has been only that small 
cloud upon the mountain." Ah ! 
that small cloud ! None except 
those who have had experience of 
it can tell what a formidable obstacle it is. 

Why is it that the Matterhorn is subject to these abominable 
variations of weather ? The ready answer is, " Oh, the mountain 
is so isolated ; it attracts the clouds." This is not a sufficient 
answer. Although the mountain is isolated, it is not so much more 
isolated than the neighbouring peaks that it should gather clouds 
when none of the others do so. It will not at all account for the 


* Since then (on at least one occasion), several persons have found themselves in 
this predicament for five or six consecutive days ! 

chap, vil MYSTERIOUS MISTS. 177 

cloud to which I refer, which is not formed by an aggregation of 
smaller, stray clouds drawn together from a distance (as scum 
collects round a log in the water), but is created against the 
mountain itself, and springs into existence where no clouds were 
seen before. It is formed and hangs chiefly against the southern 
sides, and particularly against the south-eastern side. It frequently 
does not envelop the summit, and rarely extends down to the 
Glacier du Lion, and to the Glacier du Mont Cervin below. It 
forms in the finest weather ; on cloudless and windless days. 

I conceive that we should look to differences of temperature 
rather than to the height or isolation of the mountain for an ex- 
planation. I am inclined to attribute the disturbances which occur 
in the atmosphere of the southern sides of the Matterhorn on fine 
days,* principally to the fact that the mountain is a rock mountain ; 
that it receives a great amount of heat,f and is not only warmer 
itself, but is surrounded by an atmosphere of a higher temperature 
than such peaks as the Weisshorn and the Lyskamm, which are 
eminently snow mountains. 

In certain states of the atmosphere its temperature may be 
tolerably uniform over wide areas and to great elevations. I have 
known the thermometer to show 70° in the shade at the top of an 
Alpine peak more than 13,000 feet high, and but a very few degrees 
higher 6000 or 7000 feet lower. At other times, there will be a 
difference of forty or fifty degrees (Faht.) between two stations, the 
higher not more than 6000 or 7000 feet above the lower. 

Provided that the temperature was uniform, or nearly so, on all 
sides of the Matterhorn, and to a considerable distance above its 
summit, no clouds would be likely to form upon it. But if the 
atmosphere immediately surrounding it is warmer than the con- 
tiguous strata, a local 'courant ascendant' must necessarily be 
generated ; and portions of the cooler superincumbent (or circum- 

* I am speaking exclusively of the disturbances which occur in the day-time 
during fine weather. 

t The rocks are sometimes so hot that they are almost painful to touch. 

2 A 


jacent) air will naturally be attracted towards the mountain, where 
they will speedily condense the moisture of the warm air in contact 
with it. I cannot explain the downrushes of cold air which occur 
on it, when all the rest of the neighbourhood appears to be tran- 
quil, in any other way. The clouds are produced by the contact of 
two strata of air (of widely different temperatures) charged with 
invisible moisture, as surely as certain colourless fluids produce a 
white, turbid liquid, when mixed together. The order has been — 
wind of a low temperature — mist — rain — snow or hail* 

This opinion is borne out to some extent by the behaviour 
of the neighbouring mountains. The Dom (14,935 feet) and the 
Dent Blanche (14,318) have both of them large cliffs of bare rock 
upon their southern sides, and against those cliffs clouds commonly 
form (during fine, still weather) at the same time as the cloud on 
the Matterhorn ; whilst the Weisshorn (14,804) and the Lyskamm 
(14,889), (mountains of about the same altitude, and which are in 
corresponding situations to the former pair) usually remain perfectly 

I arrived at Chatillon at midnight on the 11th, defeated and 
disconsolate ; but, like a gambler who loses each throw, only the 
more eager to have another try, to see if the luck would change : 
and returned to London ready to devise fresh combinations, and to 
form new plans. 

* The mists are extremely deceptive to those who are on the mountain itself. 
Sometimes they seem to be created at a considerable distance, as if the whole of the 
atmosphere of the neighbourhood was undergoing a change, when in reality they are 
being formed in immediate proximity to the mountain. 




" The more to help the greater deed is done." 


When we arrived upon the highest summit of Mont Pelvoux, in 
Dauphine, in 1861, we saw, to our surprise and disappointment, 
that it was not the culminating point of the district ; and that 
another mountain — distant about a couple of miles, and separated 
from us by an impassable gulf — claimed that distinction. I was 
troubled in spirit about this mountain, and my thoughts often 
reverted to the great wall-sided peak, second in apparent inaccessi- 
bility only to the Matterhorn. It had, moreover, another claim to 
attention — it was the highest mountain in France. 

The year 1862 passed away without a chance of getting to it, 
and my holiday was too brief in 1863 even to think about it ; but in 
the following year it was possible, and I resolved to set my mind at 
rest by completing the task which had been left unfinished in 1861. 

In the meantime others had turned their attention to Dauphine. 
First of all (in 1862) came Mr. F. Tuckett — that mighty moun- 
taineer, whose name is known throughout the length and breadth of 
the Alps — with the guides Michel Croz, Peter Perm, and Bartolom- 
meo Peyrotte, and great success attended his arms. But Mr. Tuckett 
halted before the Pointe des Ecrins, and, dismayed by its appearance, 
withdrew his forces to gather less dangerous laurels elsewhere. 

His expedition, however, threw some light upon the Ecrins. 

* For routes described in this chapter, see the General Map and the plan in the 
text at p. 183. 




He pointed out the direction from which an attack was most likely 
to be successful, and Mr. William Mathews and the Key, T. G. 
Bonney (to whom he communicated the result of his labours) 
attempted to execute the ascent, with the brothers Michel and J. 
B. Croz, by following his indications. But they too were defeated, 
as I shall relate more particularly presently. 


The guide Michel Croz had thus been engaged in both of 
these expeditions in Dauphine, and I naturally looked to him for 
assistance. Mr. Mathews (to whom I applied for information) gave 
him a high character, and concluded his reply to me by saying, 
" he was only happy when upwards of 10,000 feet high." 

I know what my friend meant. Croz was happiest when he 
was employing his powers to the utmost. Places where you and I 
would "toil and sweat, and yet be freezing cold," were bagatelles to 

chap. viii. MICHEL CROZ. 181 

him, and it was only when he got above the range of ordinary 
mortals, and was required to employ his magnificent strength, 
and to draw upon his unsurpassed knowledge of ice and snow, that 
he could be said to be really and truly happy. 

Of all the guides with whom I travelled, Michel Croz was 
the man who was most after my own heart. He did not work like 
a blunt razor, and take to his toil unkindly. He did not need 
urging, or to be told a second time to do anything. You had but to 
say what was to be done, and how it was to be done, and the work 
ivas done, if it was possible. Such men are not common, and when 
they are known they are valued. Michel was not widely known, 
but those who did know him came again and again. The inscrip- 
tion that is placed upon his tomb truthfully records that he was 
" beloved by his comrades and esteemed by travellers." 

At the time that I was planning my journey, my friends, 
Messrs. A. W. Moore and Horace Walker were also drawing up their 
programme ; and, as we found that our wishes were very similar, 
we agreed to unite our respective parties. The excursions which are 
described in this and the two following chapters are mutual ideas 
which were jointly executed. 

Our united programme was framed so as to avoid sleeping in 
inns, and so that we should see from the highest point attained on 
one day, a considerable portion of the route which was intended to 
be followed on the next. This latter matter was an important 
one to us, as all of our projected excursions were new ones, and led 
over ground about which there was very little information in print. 

My friends had happily secured Christian Aimer of Grindelwald 
as their guide. The combination of Croz and Aimer was a perfect 
one. Both men were in the prime of life ;* both were endued with 
strength and activity far beyond the average ; and the courage and 
the knowledge of each was alike undoubted. The temper of Aimer 
it was impossible to ruffle ; he was ever obliging and enduring, — 

* Croz was born at the Village du Tour, in the valley of Chamounix, on April 22, 
1830 ; Aimer was a year or two older. 


a bold but a safe man. That which he lacked in fire — in dash — 
was supplied by Croz, who, in his turn, was kept in place by Aimer. 
It is pleasant to remember how they worked together, and how 
each one confided to you that he liked the other so much because 
he worked so well ; but it is sad, very sad, to those who have 
known the men, to know that they can never work together again. 

We met at St. Michel on the Mont Cenis road, at midday on 
June 20, 1864, and proceeded in the afternoon over the Col de 
Valloires to the village of the same name. The summit of this 
pretty little pass is about 3500 feet above St. Michel, and from it 
we had a fair view of the Aiguilles d'Arve, a group of three peaks 
of singular form, which it was our especial object to investigate * 
They had been seen by ourselves and others from numerous distant 
points, and always looked very high and very inaccessible ; but we 
had been unable to obtain any information about them, except the few 
words in Joanne's Itineraire du Daujohine. Having made out from 
the summit of the Col de Valloires that they could be ajDproached 
from the Valley of Valloires, we hastened down to find a place 
where we could pass the night, as near as possible to the entrance 
of the little valley leading up to them. 

By nightfall we arrived at the entrance to this little valley (Vallon 
des Aiguilles d'Arve), and found some buildings placed just where 
they were wanted. The proprietress received us with civility, and 
placed a large barn at our disposal, on the conditions that no lights 
were struck or pipes smoked therein ; and when her terms were 
agreed to, she took us into her own chalet, made up a huge fire, 
heated a gallon of milk, and treated us with genuine hospitality. 

In the morning we found that the Vallon des Aiguilles d'Arve 
led away nearly due west from the Valley of Valloires, and that 
the village of Bonnenuit was placed (in the latter valley) almost 
exactly opposite to the junction of the two. 

* The Pointe des Ecrins is also seen from the top of the Col de Valloires, rising 
above the Col du Galibier. This is the lowest elevation from which I have seen the 
actual summit of the Ecrins. 




At 3.55 A.M. on the 21st we set out up the Vallon, passed for a 
time over pasture-land, and then over a stony waste, deeply chan- 
nelled by watercourses. At 5.30 the two principal Aiguilles were 
well seen, and as, by this time, it was evident that the authors of 






the Sardinian official map had romanced as 
extensively in this neighbourhood as else- 
to la grave where, it was necessary to hold a council. 

Three questions were submitted to it : — Firstly, Which is the 
highest of these Aiguilles ? Secondly, Which shall we go up ? 
Thirdly, How is it to be done ? 

The French engineers, it was said, had determined that the two 
highest of them were respectively 11,513 and 11,529 feet in height ; 
but we were without information as to which two they had mea- 
sured* Joanne indeed said (but without specifying whether he 
meant all three) that the Aiguilles had been several times ascended, 
and particularly mentioned that the one of 11,513 feet was "rela- 
tively easy." 

We therefore said, "We will go up the peak of 11,529 feet." 
But that determination did not settle the second question. Joanne's 
" relatively easy " peak, according to his description, was evidently 
the most northern of the three. Our peak then was to be one of the 

* It should be observed that these mountains were included in the territory re- 
cently ceded to France. The Sardinian map above referred to was the old official 
map. The French survey alluded to afterwards is the survey in continuation of the 
great French official map. The sheet (No. 179) which will include the Aiguilles 
d'Arve is not yet published. 


other two ; — hut which of them ? We were inclined to favour the 
central one ; hut it was hard to determine, they looked so equal in 
height. When, however, the council came to study the third ques- 
tion — " How is it to he done?" it was unanimously voted that upon 
the eastern and southern sides it was certainly relatively difficult, 
and that a move should he made round to the northern side. 

The movement was duly executed, and after wading up some 
snow-slopes of considerable steepness (going occasionally heyond 
40°), we found ourselves in a gap or nick, between the central and 
northernmost Aiguille, at 8.45 a.m. We then studied the northern 
face of our intended peak, and finally arrived at the conclusion that 
it was relatively impracticable. Croz shrugged his big shoulders, 
and said, " My faith ! I think you will do well to leave it to others." 
Aimer was more explicit, and volunteered the information that a thou- 
sand francs would not tempt him to try it. We then turned to the 
northernmost peak, but found its southern faces even more hoj)e- 
less than the northern faces of the central one. We enjoyed 
accordingly the unwonted luxury of a three-hours' rest on the top of 
our pass ; for pass we were determined it should be. 

We might have done worse. We were 10,300 or 10,400 feet 
above the level of the sea, and commanded a most picturesque view 
of the mountains of the Tarentaise ; while, somewhat east of south, 
we saw the monarch of the Dauphine* massif, whose closer acquaint- 
ance it was our intention to make. Three sunny hours passed away, 
and then we turned to the descent. We saw the distant pastures of 
a valley (which we supposed was the Vallon or Eavine de la Sausse), 
and a long snow-slope leading down to them. But from that 
slope we were cut off by precipitous rocks, and our first im- 
pression was that we should have to return in our track. Some 
running up and down, however, discovered two little gullies, filled 
with threads of snow, and clown the most northern of these we 
decided to go. It was a steep way but a safe one, for the cleft was 
so narrow that we could press the shoulder against one side whilst 
the feet were against the other, and the last remnant of the winter's 

chap. vnr. 



the - : 
top o 

sade;" the guides 
steep." Our friend 
at a standing glissade 
time very skilfully ; 
lost his balance, and 
and backwards with 
way that seemed to 


snow, well hardened, 
clung to the rift with 
great tenacity, and 
gave us a path when 
rocks refused one. In 
an-hour we got to the 
the great snow -slope, 
said — "Let us glis- 
" No, it is too 
however, started off 
and advanced for a 
but after a while he 
progressed downwards 
VE great rapidity, in a 
us very much like 

tumbling head over heels. He let go his axe, and left it behind, 
but it overtook him and batted him heartily. He and it travelled 
in this fashion for some hundreds of feet, and at last subsided into 

2 B 


the rocks at the bottom. In a few moments we were reassured 
as to his safety, by hearing him ironically request ns not to keep 
him waiting down there. 

We others followed the track shown by the dotted line upon the 
engraving (making zigzags to avoid the little groups of rocks which 
jutted through the snow, by which Walker had been upset), de- 
scended by a sitting glissade, and rejoined our friend at the bottom. 
We then turned sharply to the left, and tramped down the summit 
ridge of an old moraine of great size. Its mud was excessively 
hard, and where some large erratic blocks lay perched upon its 
crest, we were obliged to cut steps (in the mud) with our ice-axes. 

Guided by the sound of a distant ' moo,' we speedily found the 
highest chalets in the valley, named Eieu Blanc. They were 
tenanted by three old women (who seemed to belong to one of the 
missing links sought by naturalists), destitute of all ideas except in 
regard to cows, and who spoke a barbarous patois, well-nigh unin- 
telligible to the Savoyard Croz. They would not believe that we 
had passed between the Aiguilles, — " It is impossible, the coivs 
never go there." " Could we get to La Grave over yonder ridge?" 
" Oh yes ! the cows often crossed !" Could they show us the way? 
No ; but we could follow the coz^-tracks. 

We stayed a while near these chalets, to examine the western 
sides of the Aiguilles d'Arve, and, according to our united opinion, 
the central one was as inaccessible from this direction as from the 
east, north, or south. On the following day we saw them again, 
from a height of about 11,000 feet, in a south-easterly direction, 
and our opinion remained unchanged. 

We saw (on June 20-22) the central Aiguille from all sides, 
and very nearly completely round the southernmost one. The 
northern one we also saw on all sides excepting from the north. (It 
is, however, precisely from this direction M. Joanne says that its 
ascent is relatively easy.) We do not, therefore, venture to express 
any opinion respecting its ascent, except as regards its actual 
summit. This is formed of two curious prongs, or pinnacles of 


rock, and we do not understand in what way they (or either of 
them) can be ascended ; nor shall we be surprised if this ascent is 
discovered to have been made in spirit rather than body ; in fact, in 
the same manner as the celebrated ascent of Mont Blanc, " not 
entirely to the summit, but as far as the Montanvert !" 

All three of the Aiguilles may be accessible, but they look as in- 
accessible as anything I have seen. They are the highest summits 
between the valleys of the Komanche and the Arc ; they are placed 
slightly to the north of the watershed between those two valleys, and 
a line drawn through them runs, pretty nearly, north and south. 

We descended by a rough path from Kieu Blanc to the chalets 
of La Sausse, which give the name to the Vallon or Bavine de la 
Sausse, in which they are situated. This is one of the numerous 
branches of the valley that leads to St. Jean d'Arve, and subse- 
quently to St. Jean de Maurienne. 

Two passes, more or less known, lead from this valley to the 
village of La Grave (on the Lautaret road) in the valley of the 
Komanche, viz. : — the Col de l'lnfernet and the Col de Martignare. 
The former pass was crossed, just thirty years ago, by J. D. Forbes, 
and was mentioned by him in his Norway and its Glaciers. The 
latter one lies to the north of the former, and is seldom traversed 
by tourists, but it was convenient for us, and we set out to cross it 
on the morning of the 2 2d, after having passed a comfortable, but 
not luxurious, night in the hay, at La Sausse, where, however, the 
simplicity of the accommodation was more than counterbalanced 
by the civility and hospitality of the people in charge* 

* While stopping in the hospice on the Col de Lautaret, in 1869, I was accosted 
by a middle-aged peasant, who asked if I wonld ride (for a consideration) in his cart 
towards Briancon. He was inquisitive as to my knowledge of his district, and at 
last asked, " Have you been at La Sausse ?" " Yes." " Well, then, I tell you, you 
saw there some of the first people in the world." " Yes," I said, " they were primitive, 
certainly." But he was serious, and went on — "Yes, real brave people;" and, slap- 
ping his knee to give emphasis, " but that they are first-rate for minding the cows!" 

After this he became communicative. "You thought, probably," said ho, 
" when I offered to take you down, that I was some poor , not worth a sou ; but 


[Our object now was to cross to La Grave (on the high road 
from Grenoble to Briancon), and to ascend, en route, some point 
sufficiently high to give us a good view of the Dauphine Alps in 
general, and of the grand chain of the Meije in particular. Before 
leaving England a careful study of ' Joanne' had elicited the fact 
that the shortest route from La Sausse to La Grave was by the 
Col de Martignare ; and also that from the aforesaid Col it was 
possible to ascend a lofty summit, called by him the Bec-du-Grenier, 
also called Aiguille cle Goleon. On referring, however, to the 
Sardinian survey, we found there depicted, to the east of the Col 
de Martignare, not one peak bearing the above two names, but two 
distinct summits ; one — just above the Col — the Bec-du-Grenier 
(the height of which was not stated) ; the other, still farther to the 
east, and somewhat to the south of the watershed — the Aiguille du 
Goleon (11,250 English feet in height), with a very considerable 
glacier — the Glacier Lombard— between the two. On the Erench 
map,'" on the other hand, neither of the above names was to be 
found, but a peak called Aiguille de la Sausse (10,897 feet), was 
placed in the position assigned to the Bec-du-Grenier in the Sar- 
dinian map ; while farther to the east was a second and nameless 
peak (10,841), not at all in the position given to the Aiguille du 
Goleon, of which and of the Glacier Lombard there was not a sign. 
Ail this was very puzzling and unsatisfactory ; but as we had no 
doubt of being able to climb one of the points to the east of the Col 
de Martignare (which overhung the Eavine de la Sausse), we deter- 
mined to make that col the basis of our operations.] -f* 

I will tell you, that was my mountain ! ray mountain ! that you saw at La Sausse ; 
they were my cow 7 s ! a hundred of them altogether." " Why, you are rich." " Pass- 
ably rich. 1 have another mountain on the Col du Galibier, and another at Ville- 
neuve." He (although a common peasant in outward appearance) confessed to being 
wortli four thousand pounds. 

* We had seen a tracing from the unpublished sheets of the French Government 

f The bracketed paragraphs in Chaps, viii. i.\. and x. are extracted from the 
Journal of Mr. A. W. Moore. 

It would be uninteresting and unprofitable to enter into a discussion of the con- 


We left the chalets at 4.15 a.m. [under a shower of good 
wishes from our hostesses], proceeded at first towards the upper end 
of the ravine, then doubled back up a long buttress which projects 
in an unusual way, and went towards the Col de Martignare ; but 
before arriving at its summit we again doubled, and resumed the 
original course.* At 6 a.m. we stood on the watershed, and fol- 
lowed it towards the east ; keeping for some distance strictly to the 
ridge, and afterwards diverging a little to the south to avoid a con- 
siderable secondary aiguille, which prevented a straight track being 
made to the summit at which we were aiming. At 9.15 we stood 
on its top, and saw at once the lay of the land. 

We found that our peak was one of four which enclosed a pla- 
teau that was filled by a glacier. Let us call these summits 
A, B, c, D (see plan on p. 183). We stood upon c, which was almost 
exactly the same elevation as B, but was higher than D, and lower 
than A. Peak A was the highest of the four, and was about 200 
feet higher than b and c ; we identified it as the Aiguille de Goleon 
(French survey, 11,250 feet). Peak d we considered was the Bec- 
du-Grenier ; and, in default of other names, we called B and c the 
Aiguilles de la Sausse. The glacier flowed in a south-easterly 
direction, and was the Glacier Lombard. 

Peaks B and C overhung the Eavine de la Sausse, and were 
connected with another aiguille — E — which did the same. A con- 
tinuation of the ridge out of which these three aiguilles rose joined 
the Aiguilles d'Arve. The head of the Eavine de la Sausse was 
therefore encircled by six peaks ; three of which it was convenient 
to term the Aiguilles de la Sausse, and the others were the Aiguilles 

We were very fortunate in the selection of our summit. Not to 

fusion of these names at greater length. It is sufficient to say that they were 
confounded in a most perplexing manner by all the authorities we were able to 
consult, and also by the natives on the spot. 

* A great part of this morning's route led over shales, which were loose and 
troublesome, and were probably a continuation of the well-known beds of the Col du 
Galibier and the Col de Lautaret. 


speak of other things, it gave a grand view of the ridge which cul- 
minates in the peak called La Meije (13,080 feet), which used to be 
mentioned by travellers under the name Aiguille clu Midi de la 
Grave. The view of this mountain from the village of La Grave 
itself can hardly be praised too highly, — it is one of the very finest 
road-views in the Alps. The Ortler Spitz from the Stelvio is, in 
fact, its only worthy competitor ; and the opinions generally of those 
who have seen the two views are in favour of the former. But from 
La Grave one can no more appreciate the noble proportions and the 
towering height of the Meije, than understand the symmetry of the 
dome of St. Paul's by gazing upon it from the churchyard. To see it 
fairly, one must be placed at a greater distance and at a greater height. 

I shall not try to describe the Meije. The same words, and the 
same phrases, have to do duty for one and another mountain ; their 
repetition becomes wearisome ; and 'tis a discouraging fact that any 
description, however true or however elaborated, seldom or never 
gives an idea of the reality. 

Yet the Meije deserves more than a passing notice. It is the 
last — the only — great Alpine peak which has never known the foot 
of man, and one cannot speak hi exaggerated terms of its jagged 
ridges, torrential glaciers, and tremendous precipices .* But were I 

* The ridge called La Meije runs from E.S.E. to W.N. W., and is crowned by 
numerous aiguilles of tolerably equal elevation. The two highest are towards the 
eastern and western ends of the ridge, and are rather more than a mile apart. To 
the former the French surveyors assign a height of 12,730, and to the latter 13,080 
feet. In our opinion the western aiguille can hardly be more than 200 feet higher 
than the eastern one. It is possible that its height may have diminished since it 
was measured. 

In 1869 I carefully examined the eastern end of the ridge from the top of the Col 
de Lautaret, and saw that the summit at that end can be ascended by following a long 
"lacier which descends from it towards the N.E. into the valley of Arsine. The 
highest summit may present difficulties, but is possibly accessible. Any attempts 
upon it must be made from the northern side (see p. 198). 

Sheet 189 of the French map is extremely inaccurate in the neighbourhood of the 
Meije, and particularly so on its northern side. The ridges and glaciers which are 
laid down upon it can scarcely be identified on the spot. 

chap. viii. B RE CHE DE LA MEIJE. 191 

to discourse upon these things without the aid of pictures, or to 
endeavour to convey in words a sense of the loveliness of curves, of 
the beauty of colour, or of the harmonies of sound, I should try to 
accomplish that which is impossible ; and, at the best, should suc- 
ceed in but giving an impression that the things spoken of may 
have been pleasant to hear or to behold, although they are perfectly 
incomprehensible to read about. Let me therefore avoid these 
things, not because I have no love for or thought of them, but be- 
cause they cannot be translated into language ; and presently, 
when topographical details must, of necessity, be returned to again, 
I will endeavour to relieve the poverty of the pen by a free use of 
the pencil. 

Whilst we sat upon the Aiguille de la Sausse, our attention was 
concentrated on a point that was immediately opposite — on a gap 
or cleft between the Meije and the mountain called the Eateau. 
It was, indeed, in order to have a good view of this place that we 
made the ascent of the Aiguille. It (that is the gap itself) looked, 
as my companions remarked, obtrusively and offensively a pass. 
It had not been crossed, but it ought to have been ; and this 
seemed to have been recognised by the natives, who called it, very 
appropriately, the Breche de la Meije. 

I had seen the place in 1860, and again in 1861, but had not 
then thought about getting through it ; and our information in re- 
spect to it was chiefly derived from a photographic reproduction of 
the then unpublished sheet 189, of the great map of France, which 
Mr. Tuckett, with his usual liberality, had placed at our disposal. 
It was evident from this map that if we could succeed in passing 
the Breche, we should make the most direct route between the village 
of La Grave and that of Berarde in the Department of the Isere, and 
that the distance between these two places by this route, would be 
less than one-third that of the ordinary way via the villages of 
Freney and Venos. It may occur to some of my readers, why had it 
not been done before ? For the very sound reason that the valley 
on its southern side (Vallon des Etangons) is uninhabited, and La 


Berarde itself is a miserable village, without interest, without 
commerce, and almost without population. Why then did we wish 
to cross it ? Because we were bound to the Pointe des Ecrins, to 
which La Berarde was the nearest inhabited place. 

When we sat upon the Aiguille de la Sausse, we were rather 
despondent about our prospects of crossing the Breche, which 
seemed to present a combination of all that was formidable. There 
was, evidently, but one way by which it could be approached. We 
saw that at the top of the pass there was a steep wall of snow or ice 
(so steep that it was most likely ice) protected at its base by a big 
schrund or moat, which severed it from the snow-fields below. 
Then (tracking our course downwards) we saw undulating snow- 
fields leading down to a great glacier. The snow-fields would be 
easy work, but the glacier was riven and broken in every direction ; 
huge crevasses seemed to extend entirely across it in some places, 
and everywhere it had that strange twisted look, which tells of the 
unequal motion of the ice. W T here could we get on to it ? At its 
base it came to a violent end, being cut short by a cliff, over which 
it poured periodical avalanches, as we saw by a great triangular 
bed of debris below. We could not venture there, — the glacier 
must be taken in flank. But on which side ? Not on the west, 
— no one could climb those cliffs. It must, if any where, be by 
the rocks on the east ; and they looked as if they were rocJies 

So we hurried down to La Grave, to hear what Melchior 
Anderegg (who had just passed through the village with the 
family of our friend Walker) had to say on the matter. Who 
is Melchior Anderegg ? Those who ask the question cannot have 
been in Alpine Switzerland, where the name of Melchior is as well 
known as the name of Napoleon. Melchior, too, is an Emperor 
in his way — a very Prince among guides. His empire is amongst 
the ' eternal snows,' — his sceptre is an ice-axe. 

Melchior Anderegg, more familiarly, and perhaps more gene- 
rally known simply as Melchior, was born at Zaun, near 




Meiringen, on April 6, 1828. He was first brought into public 
notice in Hinchcliff's Summer Months in the Alps, and was 
known to very few persons at the time that little work was 
published. In 1855 he was "Boots" at the Grimsel Hotel, and 
in those days, when he went 
out on expeditions, it was for 
the benefit of his master, the 
proprietor ; Melchior himself 
only got the trinhgclt. In 1856 
he migrated to the Schwaren- 
bach Inn on the Gemmi, where 
he employed his time in carving 
objects for sale. In 1858 he 
made numerous expeditions with 
Messrs. Hinchcliff and Stephen, 
and proved to his employers that 
he possessed first-rate skill, in- 
domitable courage, and an ad- 
mirable character. His position 
has never been doubtful since 
that year, and for a long time 
there has been no guide whose 

services have been more in re- 
quest : he is usually engaged a 
year in advance. 

It would be almost an easier 
task to say what he has not done than to catalogue his achievements. 
Invariable success attends his arms ; he leads his followers to victory, 
but not to death. I believe that no accident has ever befallen travel- 
lers in his charge. Like his friend Aimer, he can be called a safe 
man. It is the highest praise that can be given to a hrst-rate guide. 

Early in the afternoon we found ourselves in the little inn at 
La Grave, on the great Lautaret road, a rickety, tumble-down 
sort of place, with nothing stable about it, as Moore wittily 

2 c 



remarked, except the smell.* Melchior had gone, and had left 
behind a note which said, " I think the passage of the Breche is 
possible, but that it will be very difficult." His opinion coincided 
with ours, and we went to sleep, expecting to be afoot about 
eighteen or twenty hours on the morrow. 

At 2.40 the next morning we left La Grave, in a few minutes 
crossed the Eomanche, and at 4 a.m. got to the moraine of the 
eastern branch of the glacier that descends from the Breche. t 
The rocks by which we intended to ascend were placed between 
the two branches of this glacier, and still looked smooth and un- 
broken. But by 5 o'clock we were upon them. We had been 
deluded by them. No carpenter could have planned a more con- 
venient staircase. They were not moutonnec, thei r smooth look from 
a distance was only owing to their singular firmness. [It was 
really quite a pleasure to scale such delightful rocks. We felt 
the stone held the boot so well, that, without making a positive 
effort to do so, it would be almost impossible to slip.] In an hour 
we had risen above the most crevassed portion of the glacier, and 
began to look for a way on to it. Just at the right place there 
was a patch of old snow at the side, and, instead of gaining the ice 
by desperate acrobatic feats, we passed from the rocks on to it as 
easily as one walks across a gangway. At half-past 6 we were 
on the centre of the glacier, and the inhabitants of La Grave 
turned out en masse into the road, and watched us with amaze- 
ment as they witnessed the falsification of their confident predic- 
tions. Well might they stare, for our little caravan, looking to 
them like a train of flies on a wall, crept up and up, without 

* The justness of the observation will be felt by those who knew La Grave in 
or before 1864. At that time the horses of the couriers who were passing from 
Grenoble to Briancon, and vice versa, were lodged immediately underneath the 
salle-a-manger and bedrooms, and a pungent, steamy odour rose from them through 
the cracks in the floor, and constantly pervaded the whole house. I am told that the 
inn has been improved since 1864. 

f Our route from La Grave to La B£rarde will be seen on the accompanying 




hesitation and without a halt — lost to their sight one minute as 
it dived into a crevasse, then seen again clambering up the other 
side. The higher we rose the easier became 
the work, the angles lessened, and our pace 
increased. The snow remained shadowed, 
and we walked as easily as on a high road ; 
and when (at 7.45) the summit of the Breche 
was seen, we rushed at it as furiously as if it 
had been a breach in the wall of a fortress, 
carried the moat by a dash, with a push 
behind and a pull before, stormed the steep 
slope above, and at 8.50 stood in the little 
gap, 11,054 feet above the level of the sea. 
The Breche was won. Well might they 
stare ; five hours and a quarter had sufficed 
for 6500 feet of ascent.* We screamed tri- 
umphantly as they turned in to breakfast. 

All mountaineers know how valuable it 
is to study beforehand an intended route 
over new ground from a height at some dis- 
tance. None but blunderers fail to do so, if 
it is possible ; and one cannot do so too 
thoroughly. As a rule, the closer one ap- 
proaches underneath a summit, the more difficult it is to pick out 
a path with judgment. Inferior peaks seem unduly important, 
subordinate ridges are exalted, and slopes conceal points beyond ; 
and if one blindly undertakes an ascent, without having acquired 
a tolerable notion of the relative importance of the parts, and of their 
positions to one another, it will be miraculous if great difficulties 
are not encountered. 

But although the examination of an intended route from a 
height at a distance will tell one (who knows the meaning of the 

:: Taking one kind of work with another, a thousand feet of height per hour is 
about as much as is usually accomplished on great Alpine ascents. 



things lie is looking at) a good deal, and will enable him to steer 
clear of many difficulties against which he might otherwise blindly 
run, it will seldom allow one to pronounce positively upon the 
practicability or impracticability of the whole of the route. No 
living man, for example, can pronounce positively from a distance 
in regard to rocks. Those just mentioned are an illustration of this. 
Three of the ablest and most experienced guides concurred in think- 
ing that they would be found very difficult, and they proved to be 
of no difficulty whatever. In truth, the sounder and less broken 
up are the rocks, the more impracticable do they usually look from 
a distance ; while soft and easily rent rocks, which are often 
amongst the most difficult and perilous to climb, very frequently 
look from afar as if they might be traversed by a child. 

It is possible to decide with greater certainty in regard to the 
practicability of glacier. When one is seen to have few open cre- 
vasses (and this may be told from a great distance), then we know 
that it is possible to traverse it ; but to what extent it, or a glacier 
that is much broken up by crevasses, will be troublesome, will 
depend upon the width and length of the crevasses, and upon the 
angles of the surface of the glacier itself. A glacier may be greatly 
crevassed, but the fissures may be so narrow that there is no occa- 
sion to deviate from a straight line when passing across them ; or 
a glacier may have few open crevasses, and yet may be practically 
impassable on account of the steepness of the angles of its surface. 
Nominally, a man with an axe can go anywhere upon a glacier, but 
in practice it is found that to move freely upon ice one must have 
to deal only with small angles. It is thus necessary to know ap- 
proximately the angles of the surfaces of a glacier before it is pos- 
sible to determine whether it will afford easy travelling, or will be 
so difficult as to be (for all practical purposes) impassable. This 
cannot be told by looking at glaciers in full face from a distance ; 
they must be seen in profile ; and it is often desirable to examine 
them both from the front and in profile, — to do the first to study 
the direction of the crevasses, to note where they are most and least 


numerous ; and the second to see whether its angles are moderate 
or great. Should they be very steep, it may be better to avoid 
them altogether, and to mount even by difficult rocks ; but upon 
glaciers of gentle inclination, and with few open crevasses, better 
progress can always be made than upon the easiest rocks. 

So much to explain why we were deceived when looking at the 
Breche de la Meije from the Aiguille de la Sausse. We took note 
of all the difficulties, but did not pay sufficient attention to the 
distance that the Breche was south of La Grave. My meaning will 
be apparent from the accompanying diagram, Fig. 1 (constructed 

Fig. 2. Fig. i. 

D C 


-2.7K00'- -»* *e 1475 4 - 

upon the data supplied by the French surveyors), which will also 
serve to illustrate how badly angles of elevation are judged by the 
unaided eye. 

The village of La Grave is just 5000 feet, and the highest sum- 
mit of the Meije is 13,080 feet above the level of the sea. There 
is therefore a difference in their levels of 8080 feet. But the sum- 
mit of the Meije is south of La Grave about 14,750 feet, and, 
consequently, a line drawn from La Grave to the summit of the 
Meije is no steeper than the dotted line drawn from A to C, Fig. 1 ; 
or, in other words, if one could go in a direct line from La Grave 
to the summit of the Meije the ascent would be at an angle of less 
than 30°. Mne persons out of ten would probably estimate the 
angle on the spot at double this amount* 

The Breche is 2000 feet below the summit of the Meije, and 
only 6000 feet above La Grave. A direct ascent from the village 

" Fig. 2 represents in a similar manner the distance and elevation of the Matter- 
horn from and above Zermatt. See p. 83. 


to the Breche would consequently be at an angle of not much more 
than 20°. But it is not possible to make the ascent as the crow 
flies ; it has to be made by an indirect and much longer route. Our 
track was probably double the length of a direct line between the 
two places. Doubling the length halves the angles, and we there- 
fore arrive at the somewhat amazing conclusion, that upon this, one 
of the steepest passes in the Alps, the mean of all the angles upon 
the ascent could not have been greater than 11° or 12°. Of course, 
in some places, the angles were much steeper, and in others less, 
but the mean of the whole could not have passed the angle above 

We did not trouble ourselves much with these matters when we 
sat on the top of the Breche. Our day's work was as good as over 
(for we knew from Messrs. Mathews and Bonney that there was no 
difficulty upon the other side), and we abandoned ourselves to ease 
and luxury ; wondering, alternately, as we gazed upon the Bateau 
and the Ecrins, how the one mountain could possibly hold itself to- 
gether, and whether the other would hold out against us. The 
former looked [so rotten that it seemed as if a puff of wind or a clap 
of thunder might dash the whole fabric to pieces] ; while the latter 
asserted itself the monarch of the group, and towered head and 
shoulders above all the rest of the peaks which form the great 
horse-shoe of Dauphine. At length a cruel rush of cold air made 
us shiver, and shift our quarters to a little grassy plot, 3000 feet 
below — an oasis in a desert — where we lay nearly four hours ad- 
miring the splendid wall which protects the summit of the Meije 
from assault upon this side* Then we tramped down the Vallon 
des Etangons, a howling wilderness, the abomination of desola- 
tion ; destitute alike of animal or vegetable life ; pathless, of course ; 

* This wall may be described as an exaggerated Gemmi, as seen from Lenkerbad. 
From the highest summit of La Meije right down to the Glacier des Etancons (a 
depth of about 3200 feet), the cliff is all but perpendicular, and appeals to be com- 
pletely unassailable. The dimensions of these pages are insufficient to do justice to 
this magnificent wall, which is the most imposing of its kind that 1 have seen ; 
otherwise it would have been engraved. 




suggestive of chaos, but of little else ; covered almost throughout 
its entire length with debris from the size of a walnut up to that 
of a house ; in a word, it looked as if half-a-dozen moraines of first- 
rate dimensions had been carted and shot into it. Our tempers 
were soured by constant pitfalls [it was impossible to take the eyes 




from the feet, and if an unlucky individual so much as blew his 
nose, without standing still to perform the operation, the result was 
either an instantaneous tumble, or a barked shin, or a half-twisted 
ankle. There was no end to it, and we became more savage at 
every step, unanimously agreeing that no power on earth would 
ever induce us to walk up or down this particular valley again]. 
It was not. just to the valley, which was enclosed by noble moun- 
tains, — unknown, it is true, but worthy of a great reputation, and 

* The drawing was inadvertently made the right way on the wood, and the view 
is now reversed in consequence. 


which, if placed in other districts, would be sought after, and cited 
as types of daring form and graceful outline. 

Not so very long ago, perhaps, the Vallon des Etancons wore 
a more cheerful aspect. It is well known that many of the 
French Alpine valleys have rapidly deteriorated in quite modern 
times. Blanqui pointed out, a few years ago, some of the causes 
which have brought this about, in an address to the Academy of 
Sciences ; and although his remarks are not entirely aj^plicable to 
this very valley, the chapter may be properly closed with some of 
his vigorous sentences. He said, " The abuse of the right of pas- 
turage, and the felling of the woods, have stripped the soil of all 
its grass and all its trees, and the scorching sun bakes it to the 
consistence of porphyry. When moistened by the rain, as it has 
neither support nor cohesion, it rolls down into the valleys, some- 
times in floods resembling black, yellow, or reddish lava, and some- 
times in streams of pebbles, and even huge blocks of stone, which 
pour down with a frightful roar. . . . Yast deposits of flinty 
pebbles, many feet in thickness, which have rolled down and spread 
far over the plain, surround large trees, bury even their tops, and 
rise above them. . . . The gorges, under the influence of the sun 
which cracks and shivers to fragments the very rocks, and of the 
rain which sweeps them down, penetrate deeper and deeper into 
the heart of the mountain, while the beds of the torrents issuing 
from them are sometimes raised several feet in a single year by the 
debris. . . . An indirect proof of the increase of the evil is to be 
found in the depopulation of the country. . . . Unless prompt 
and energetic measures are taken, it is easy to fix the epoch when 

the French Alps will be but a desert Every year will 

aggravate the evil, and in half-a-century France will count more 
ruins, and a department the less."* 

* Quoted from Marsh's Man and Nature. 



"Filled with high mountains, rearing their heads as if to reach to heaven, crowned 
with glaciers, and fissured with immense chasms, where lie the eternal snows guarded 
by bare and rugged cliffs ; offering the most varied sights, and enjoying all tempera- 
tures ; and containing everything that is most curious and interesting, the most 
simple and the most sublime, the most smiling and the most severe, the most beau- 
tiful and the most awful ; such is the department of the High iUps." 


Before 5 o'clock on the afternoon of June 23, we were trotting 
down the steep path that leads into La Bdrarde. We put up, of 
course, with the chasseur-guide Eodier (who, as usual, was smooth 
and smiling), and, after congratulations were over, we returned to 
the exterior to watch for the arrival of one Alexander Pic, who had 
been sent overnight with our baggage via Freney and Venos. But 
when the night fell, and no Pic appeared, we saw that our plans 
must be modified ; for he was necessary to our very existence — he 
carried our food, our tobacco, our all. So, after some discussion, it 
was agreed that a portion of our programme should be abandoned, 
that the night of the 24th should be passed at the head of the 
Glacier de la Bonne Pierre, and that, on the 25th, a push should 
be made for the summit of the Ecrins. We then went to straw. 

Our porter Pic strolled in next morning with his usual jaunty 
air, and we seized upon our tooth-brushes ; but, upon looking for 
the cigars, we found starvation staring us in the face. " Hullo ! 
Monsieur Pic, where are our cigars ?" " Gentlemen," he began, " I 
am desolated !" and then, quite pat, he told a long rigmarole about 
a fit on the road, of brigands, thieves, of their ransacking the knap- 

2 D 




sacks when he was insensible, and of finding them gone when he 
revived ! " Ah ! Monsieur Pic, we see what it is, yon have smoked 
them yourself!" "Gentlemen, I never smoke, never!" Where- 
upon we inquired secretly if he was known to smoke, and found 
that he was. However, he said that he had never spoken truer 
words, and perhaps he had not, for he is reported to be the greatest 
liar in Dauphine ! 

We were now able to start, and set out at 1.15 p.m. to bivouac 



upon the Glacier de la Bonne Pierre, accompanied by Rodier, who 
staggered under a load of blankets. Many slopes had to be mounted, 
and many torrents to be crossed, all of which has been described 
by Mr. Tuckett * We, however, avoided the difficulties he experi- 
enced with the latter by crossing them high up, where they were 
subdivided. But when we got on to the moraine on the right bank 
of the glacier (or, properly speaking, on to one of the moraines, for 
there are several), mists descended, to our great hindrance ; and 

* Alpine Journal, December 1863. 

chap. ix. DISSOLVING VIEWS. 203 

it was 5.30 before we arrived on the spot at which it was intended 
to camp. 

Each one selected his nook, and we then joined round a grand 
fire made by our men. Fortnum and Mason's portable soup was 
sliced up and brewed, and was excellent ; but it should be said 
that before it was excellent, three times the quantity named in the 
directions had to be used. Art is required in drinking as in mak- 
ing this soup, and one point is this — always let your friends drink 
first ; not only because it is more polite, but because the soup has 
a tendency to burn the mouth if taken too hot, and one drink of 
the bottom is worth two of the top, as all the goodness settles. 

[While engaged in these operations, the mist that enveloped the 
glacier and surrounding peaks was becoming thinner ; little bits of 
blue sky appeared here and there, until . suddenly, when we were 
looking towards the head of the glacier, far, far above us, at an 
almost inconceivable height, in a tiny patch of blue, appeared a 
wonderful rocky pinnacle, bathed in the beams of the fast-sinking 
sun. We were so electrified by the glory of the sight that it was 
some seconds before we realised what we saw, and understood that 
that astounding point, removed apparently miles from the earth, 
was one of the highest summits of Les Ecrins ; and that we hoped, 
before another sun had set, to have stood upon an even loftier pin- 
nacle. The mists rose and fell, presenting us with a series of dis- 
solving views of ravishing grandeur, and finally died away, leaving 
the glacier and its mighty bounding precipices under an exquisite 
pale blue sky, free from a single speck of cloud.] 

The night passed over without anything worth mention, but we 
had had occasion to observe in the morning an instance of the curious 
evaporation that is frequently noticeable in the High Alps. On the 
previous night we had hung up on a knob of rock our mackintosh 
bag containing five bottles of Kodier's bad wine. In the morning, 
although the stopper appeared to have been in all night, about four- 
fifths had evaporated. It was strange ; my friends had not taken 
any, neither had I, and the guides each declared that they had not 


seen any one touch it. In fact it was clear that there was no ex- 
planation of the phenomenon, but in the dryness of the air. Still 
it is remarkable that the dryness of the air (or the evaporation of 
wine) is always greatest when a stranger is in one's party — the 
dryness caused by the presence of even a single Chamounix porter 
is sometimes so great, that not four-fifths but the entire quantity 
disappears. For a time I found difficulty in combating this phe- 
nomenon, but at last discovered that if I used the wine-flask as a 
pillow during the night, the evaporation was completely stopped. 

At 4 a.m. we moved off across the glacier in single file towards 
the foot of a great gully, which led from the upper slopes of the 
glacier de la Bonne Pierre, to the lowest point in the ridge that 
runs from the Ecrins to the mountain called Eoche Faurio, — 
cheered by Eodier, who now returned with his wraps to La Berarde. 
This gully (or couloir) was discovered and descended by Mr. Tuck- 
ett, and we will now return for a minute to the explorations of that 
accomplished mountaineer. 

In the year 1862 he had the good fortune to obtain from the 
Depot de la Guerre at Paris, a MS. copy of the then unpublished 
sheet 189 of the map of France, and with it in hand, he swept 
backwards and forwards across the central Dauphine Alps, un- 
troubled by the doubts as to the identity of peaks, which had per- 
plexed Mr. Macdonald and myself in 1861 ; and, enlightened by it, 
he was able to point out (which he did in the fairest manner) that 
we had confounded the Ecrins with another mountain — the Pic 
Sans Nom. We made this blunder through imperfect knowledge of 
the district and inaccurate reports of the natives ; — but it was not 
an extraordinary one (the two mountains are not unlike each other), 
considering the difficulty that there is in obtaining from any except 
the very highest summits a complete view of this intricate group. 

The situations of the principal summits can be perceived at a 
glance on the accompanying map, which is a reproduction of a por- 
tion of sheet 189. The main ridge of the chain runs, at this part, 
nearly north and south. Iioche Faurio, at the northern extreme, is 


3716 metres, or 12,192 feet, above the level of the sea. The lowest 
point between that mountain and the Ecrins (the Col des Ecrins) is 
11,000 feet. The ridge again rises, and passes 13,000 feet in the 
neighbourhood of the Ecrins. The highest summit of that moun- 
tain (13,462 feet) is, however, placed a little to the east of and off 
the main ridge. It then again falls, and in the vicinity of the Col 
de la Tempe it is, perhaps, below 11,000 feet ; but immediately to the 
south of the summit of that pass, there is upon the ridge a point 
which has been determined by the French surveyors to be 12,323 
feet. This peak is without a name. The ridge continues to gain 
height as we come to the south, and culminates in the mountain 
which the French surveyors have called Sommet de l'Aile Froide. 
On the spot it is called, very commonly, the Alefroide. 

There is some uncertainty respecting the elevation of this moun- 
tain* The Frenchmen give 3925 metres (12,878) as its highest 
point, but Mr. Tuckett, who took a good theodolite to the top of 
Mont Pelvoux (which he agreed with his predecessors had an eleva- 
tion of 12,973 feet), found that the summit of the Alefroide was 
elevated above his station 4' ; and as the distance between the two 
points was 12,467 feet, this would represent a difference in altitude 
of 5 metres in favour of the Alefroide. I saw this mountain from 
the summit of Mont Pelvoux in 1861, and was in doubt as to which 
of the two was the higher, and in 1864, from the summit of the 
Pointe des Ecrins (as will presently be related), it looked actually 
higher than Mont Pelvoux. I have therefore little doubt but that 
Mr. Tuckett is right in believing the Alefroide to have an elevation 
of about 13,000 feet, instead of 12,878, as determined by the French 

Mont Pelvoux is to the east of the Alefroide and off the main 
ridge, and the Pic Sans ISTom (12,845 feet) is placed between these 
two mountains. The latter is one of the grandest of the Dauphine 

* It is shown in the engraving facing p. 35. It has several points nearly equally 
elevated, all of which seem to be accessible. I am informed that it was ascended 
this year (1870), but details of the ascent have not reached me. 


peaks, but it is so shut in by the other mountains, that it is seldom 
seen except from a distance, and then is usually confounded with 
the neighbouring summits. Its name has been accidentally omitted 
on the map, but its situation is represented by the large patch of 
rocks, nearly surrounded by glaciers, that is seen between the words 
Ailefroide and Mt. Pelvoux. 

The lowest depression on the main ridge to the south of the 
Alefroide is the Col du Sele, and this, according to Mr. Tuckett, is 
10,834 feet. The ridge soon rises again, and, a little farther to the 
south, joins another ridge running nearly east and west. To a 
mountain at the junction of these two ridges the Frenchmen hava 
given the singular name Crete des Bceufs Kouges ! The highest 
point hereabouts is 11,332 feet ; but a little to the west there is 
another peak (Mont Bans) of 11,979 feet. The main ridge runs 
from this last-named point, in a north-westerly direction, to the 
Cols de Says, both of which exceed 10,000 feet. 

It will thus be seen that the general elevation of this main 
ridge is almost equal to that of the range of Mont Blanc, or of the 
central Pennine Alps ; and if we were to follow it out more com- 
pletely, or to follow the other ridges surrounding or radiating from 
it, we should find that there is a remarkable absence, throughout 
the entire district, of low gaps and depressions, and that there are 
an extraordinary number of peaks of medium elevation.* The 
difficulty which explorers have experienced in Dauphine in identi- 
fying peaks, has very much arisen from the elevation of the ridges 
generally being more uniform than is commonly found in the Alps, 
and the consequent facile concealment of one point by another. 
The difficulty has been enhanced by the narrowness and erratic 
courses of the valleys. 

The possession of the ' advanced copy ' of sheet 189 of the 
French map, enabled Mr. Tuckett to grasp most of what I have just 

* There are more than twenty peaks exceeding 12,000 feet, and thirty others 
exceeding 11,000 feet, within the district bounded by the rivers Romanche, Drac, 
and Durance. 

chap. ix. THE COL DES ECEINS. 207 

said, and much more ; and he added, in 1862, three interesting 
passes across this part of the chain to those already known. The 
first, from Ville Vallouise to La Berarde, via the village of Clanx, 
and the glaciers du Sele and de la Pilatte, — this he called the Col 
du Sele ; the second, between Ville Vallouise and Villar d'Arene 
(on the Lautaret road) vi& Claux and the glaciers Blanc and 
d'Arsine, — the Col du Glacier Blanc ; and the third, from Vallouise 
to La Berarde, via the Glacier Blanc, the Glacier de l'Encula, and 
the Glacier de la Bonne Pierre, the Col des Ecrins. 

This last pass was discovered accidentally. Mr. Tuckett set out 
intending to endeavour to ascend the Pointe des Ecrins, but circum- 
stances were against him, as he relates in the following words : — 
"Arrived on the plateau" (of the Glacier de l'Encula), "a most striking- 
view of the Ecrins burst upon us, and a hasty inspection encouraged 
us to hope that its ascent would be practicable. On the sides of 
La Berarde and the Glacier Noir it presents, as has been already 
stated, the most precipitous and inaccessible faces that can well be 
conceived ; but in the direction of the Glacier de l'Encula, as the 
upper plateau of the Glacier Blanc is named on the French map, the 
slopes are less rapid, and immense masses of ndve and seracs cover it 
nearly to the summit." 

" The snow was in very bad order, and as we sank at each step 
above the knee, it soon became evident that our prospects of 
success were extremely doubtful. A nearer approach, too, dis- 
closed traces of fresh avalanches, and after much deliberation and 
a careful examination through the telescope, it was decided that 
the chances in our favour were too small to render it desirable to 
waste time in the attempt. ... I examined the map, from 
which I perceived that the glacier seen through the gap" (in the 
ridge running from Boche Faurio to the Ecrins) " to the west, at a 
great depth below, must be that of La Bonne Pierre ; and if a 
descent to its head was practicable, a passage might probably be 
effected to La Berarde. On suggesting to Croz and Perm that, 
though baffled by the state of the snow on the Ecrins, we might 


still achieve something of interest and importance by discovering a 
new col, they both heartily assented, and in a few minutes Perm 
was over the edge, and cutting his way down the rather formidable 
couloir," etc. etc.* 

This was the couloir at the foot of which we found ourselves at 
daybreak on the 25th of June 1864 ; but before commencing the 
relation of our doings upon that eventful day, I must recount the 
experiences of Messrs. Mathews and Bonney in 1862. 

These gentlemen, with the two Croz's, attempted the ascent of 
the Ecrins a few weeks after Mr. Tuckett had inspected the moun- 
tain. On August 26, says Mr. Bonney, "we pushed on, and our 
hopes each moment rose higher and higher ; even the cautious 
Michel committed himself so far as to cry, ' Ah, malheureux 
Ecrins, vous serez bientot morts,' as we addressed ourselves to the 
last slope leading up to the foot of the final cone. The old 
proverb about ' many a slip' was, however, to prove true on this 
occasion. Arrived at the top of this slope, we found that we were 
cut off from the peak by a formidable bergschrund, crossed by the 
rottenest of snow-bridges. We looked to the right and to the left, 
to see whether it would be possible to get on either arete at its 
extremity ; but instead of rising directly from the snow as they 
appeared to do from below, they were terminated by a wall of 
rock some forty feet high. There was but one place where the 
bergschrund was narrow enough to admit of crossing, and there a 
cliff of ice had to be climbed, and then a path to be cut up a steep 
slope of snow, before the arete could be reached. At last, after 
searching in vain for some time, Michel bade us wait a little, and 
started off to explore the gap separating the highest peak from the 
snow-dome on the right, and see if it were possible to ascend the 
rocky wall. Presently he appeared, evidently climbing with 
difficulty, and at last stood on the arete itself. Again we thought 
the victory was won, and started off to follow him. Suddenly he 
called to us to halt, and turned to descend. In a few minutes he 

* Alpine Journal, Dec. 1863. 


stopped. After a long pause he shouted to his brother, saying that 
he was not able to return by the way he had ascended. Jean was 
evidently uneasy about him, and for some time we watched him 
with much anxiety. At length he began to hew out steps in the 
snow along the face of the peak towards us. Jean now left us, 
and, making for the ice-cliff mentioned above, chopped away until, 
after about a quarter of an hour's labour, he contrived, somehow or 
other, to worm himself up it, and began to cut steps to meet his 
brother. Almost every step appeared to be cut right through the 
snowy crust into the hard ice below, and an incipient stream of 
snow came hissing down the sides of the peak as they dug it away 
with their axes. Michel could not have been much more than 
100 yards from us, and yet it was full three quarters of an hour 
before the brothers met. This done, they descended carefully, 
burying their axe-heads deep in the snow at every step. 

Michel's account was that he had reached the arete with great 
difficulty, and saw that it was practicable for some distance, in 
fact, as far as he could see ; but that the snow was in a most 
dangerous condition, being very incoherent and resting on hard 
ice ; that when he began to descend in order to tell us this, he 
found the rocks so smooth and slippery that return was impossible ; 
and that for some little time he feared that he should not be able 
to extricate himself, and was in considerable danger. Of course 
the arete could have been reached by the way our guides had 
descended, but it was so evident that their judgment was against 
proceeding, that we did not feel justified in urging them on. We 
had seen so much of them that we felt sure they would never 
hang back unless there was real danger, and so we gave the word 
for retreating."* 

On both of these expeditions there was fine weather and plenty 
of time. On each occasion the parties slept out at, and started 
from, a considerable elevation, and arrived at the base of the 
final peak of the Ecrins early in the clay, and with plenty of 

" ;; " Alpine Journal, June 1863. 
2 E 


superfluous energy. Guides and travellers alike, on each occasion, 
were exceptional men, experienced mountaineers, who had proved 
their skill and courage on numerous antecedent occasions, and who 
were not accustomed to turn away from a thing merely because it 
was difficult to do. On each occasion the attempts were aban- 
doned because the state of the snow on and below the final peak 
was such that avalanches were anticipated ; and, according to the 
judgment of those who were concerned, there was such an amount 
of positive danger from this condition of things, that it was Unjusti- 
fiable to persevere. 

We learnt privately, from Messrs. Mathews, Bonney, and 
Tuckett, that unless the snow was in a good state upon the final 
peak (that is to say, coherent and stable), we should probably be of 
the same opinion as themselves ; and that although the face of the 
mountain fronting the Glacier de l'Encula was much less steep 
than its other faces, and was apparently the only side upon which 
an attempt was at all likely to be successful, it was, nevertheless, 
so steep, that for several days, at least, after a fall of snow upon it, 
the chances in favour of avalanches would be considerable. 

The reader need scarcely be told, after all that has been said 
about the variableness of weather in the High Alps, the chance was 
small indeed that we should find upon the 25th of June, or any 
other set day, the precise condition of affairs that was deemed in- 
dispensable for success. We had such confidence in the judg- 
ment of our friends, that it was understood amongst us the ascent 
should be abandoned, unless the conditions were manifestly favour- 

By five minutes to six Ave were at the top of the gully (a first- 
rate couloir, about 1000 feet high), and within sight of our work. 
Hard, thin, and wedge-like as the Ecrins had looked from afar, 
it had never looked so hard and so thin as it did when we emerged 
from the top of the couloir through the gap in the ridge ; no 
tender shadows spoke of broad and rounded ridges, but sharp 
and shadowless its serrated edges stood out against the clear 




jgp" It had be en 
^ ~ said that the 
route must be 
taken by one 
of the ridges of the final peak, 
but both were alike repellent, hacked 
and notched in numberless places. They reminded me of my 
failure on the Dent d'Herens in 1863, and of a place on a similar 
ridge, from which advance or retreat was alike difficult. But, 
presuming one or other of these ridges or aretes was practi- 
cable, there remained the task of getting to them, for com- 
pletely round the base of the final peak swept an enormous 
bergschrund, almost separating it from the slopes which lay 
beneath. It was evident thus early that the ascent would not 
be accomplished without exertion, and that it would demand 
all our faculties and all our time. In more than one respect 
we were favoured. The mists were gone, the day was bright 
and perfectly calm ; there had been a long stretch of fine weather 
beforehand, and the snow was in excellent order ; and, most 
important of all, the last new snow which had fallen on the 
final peak, unable to support itself, had broken away and rolled 
in a mighty avalanche, over schrund, neve, seracs, over hills and 

* The above view of the Ecrins was taken from the summit of the Col du Galibier. 


valleys in the glacier (levelling one and filling the other), com- 
pletely down to the col, where it lay in huge jammed masses, 
powerless to harm us ; and had made a broad track, almost a road, 
over which, for part of the way at least, we might advance with 

We took in all this in a few minutes, and seeing there was no 
time to be lost, despatched a hasty meal, left knapsacks, provisions, 
and all incumbrances by the col, started again at half-past six, and 
made direct for the left side of the schrund, for it was there alone 
that a passage was practicable. We crossed it at 8.10. Our route 
can now be followed upon the annexed outline. The arrow marked D 
B .... . . points out the direction of the 

Glacier de la Bonne Pierre. The 

ridge in front, that extends 

right across, is the ridge that 

is partially shown on the top 

of the map at p. 202, leading 

from Roche Faurio towards 

the W.N.W. We arrived upon the plateau of the Glacier de 

TEncula, behind this ridge, from the direction of D, and then made 

a nearly straight track to the left hand of the bergschrund at A. 

Thus far there was no trouble, but the nature of the work 
changed immediately. If we regard the upper 700 feet alone of 
the final peak of the Ecrins, it may be described as a three-sided 
pyramid. One face is towards the Glacier Noir, and forms one of 
the sheerest precipices in the Alps. Another is towards the 
Glacier du Vallon, and is less steep, and less uniform in angle than 
the first. The third is towards the Glacier de l'Encula, and it was 
by this one we approached the summit. Imagine a triangular 
plane, 700 or 800 feet high, set at an angle exceeding 50° ; 
let it be smooth, glassy ; let the uppermost edges be cut into spikes 
and teeth, and let them be bent, some one way, some another. 
Let the glassy face be covered with minute fragments of rock, 
scarcely attached, but varnished with ice ; imagine tins, and then 


you will have a very faint idea of the face of the Ecrins on which 
we stood. It was not possible to avoid detaching stones, which, as 
they fell, caused words unmentionable to rise. The greatest friends 
would have reviled each other in such a situation. We gained the 
eastern arete, and endeavoured for half-an-hour to work upwards 
towards the summit ; but it was useless (each yard of progress cost 
an incredible time) ; and having no desire to form the acquaintance 
of the Glacier Noir in a precipitate manner, we beat a retreat, and 
returned to the schrund. We again held a council, and it was 
unanimously decided that we should be beaten if we could not cut 
along the upper edge of the schrund, and, when nearly beneath the 
summit, work up to it. So Croz took off his coat and went to 
work ; — on ice, — not that black ice so often mentioned and so sel- 
dom seen, but on ice as hard as ice could be. Weary work for the 
guides. Croz cut for more than half-an-hour, and we did not seem 
to have advanced at all. Some one behind, seeing how great the 
labour was, and how slow the progress, suggested that after all we 
might do better on the arete. Croz's blood was up, and indignant 
at this slight on his powers, he ceased working, turned in his steps, 
and rushed towards me with a haste that made me shudder : " By 
all means let us go there, the sooner the better." No slight was 
intended, and he resumed his work, after a time being relieved by 
Aimer. Half-past ten came ; an hour had passed ; they were still 
cutting. Dreary work for us, for there was no capering about to 
be done here ; hand as well as foot-holes were necessary ; the 
fingers and toes got very cold ; the ice, as it boomed in bounding 
down the bergschrund, was very suggestive ; conversation was very 
restricted, separated as we were by our tether of 20 feet apiece. 
Another hour passed. We were now almost immediately below the 
summit, and we stopped to look up. We were nearly as far off it 
(vertically) as we had been more than three hours before. The day 
seemed going against us. The only rocks near at hand were scat- 
tered ; no bigger than tea-cups, and most of these, we found after- 
wards, were glazed with ice. Time forbade cutting right up to the 


summit, even had it been possible, which it was not. We decided 
to go up to the ridge again by means of the rocks ; but had we not 
had a certain confidence in each other, it unquestionably would not 
have been done ; for this, it must be understood, was a situation 
where not only might a slip have been fatal to every one, but it 
would have been so beyond doubt : nothing, moreover, was easier 
than to make one. It was a place where all had to work in unison, 
where there must be no slackening of the rope, and no unnecessary 
tension. For another hour we were in this trying situation, and at 
12.30 we gained the arete again, but at a much higher point (B), 
close to the summit. Our men were, I am afraid, well-nigh worn 
out ; cutting up a couloir 1000 feet high was not the right sort of 
preparation for work of this kind. Be it so or not, we were all 
glad to rest for a short time, for we had not sat down a minute 
since leaving the col six hours before. Aimer, however, was rest- 
less, knowing that midday was past, and that much remained to 
be accomplished, and untied himself, and commenced working 
towards the summit. Connecting the teeth of rock were beds of 
snow, and Aimer, but a few feet from me, was crossing the top of 
one of these, when suddenly, without a moment's warning, it broke 
away under him, and plunged down on to the glacier. As he 
staggered for a second, one foot in the act of stepping, and the 
other on the falling mass, I thought him lost ; but he happily fell 
on to the right side and stopped himself. Had he taken the step 
with his right instead of the left foot, he would, in all probability, 
have fallen several hundred feet without touching anything, and 
would not have been arrested before reaching the glacier, a vertical 
distance of at least 3000 feet. 

Small, ridiculously small, as the distance was to the summit, we 
were occupied nearly another hour before it was gained. Aimer 
was a few feet in front, and he, with characteristic modesty, hesi- 
tated to step on the highest point, and drew back to allow us to 
pass. A cry was raised for Croz, who had done the chief part of 
the work, but he declined the honour, and we marched on to the 




top simultaneously ; that is to say, clustered round it, a yard or 
two below, for it was much too small to get upon. 

According to my custom, I bagged a piece from off the highest 
rock (chlorite slate), and I found afterwards that it had a striking 
similarity to the final peak of the Ecrins. I have noticed the same 
thing on other occasions,* 
and it is worthy of remark 
that not only do fragments 
of such rock as limestone 
often present the character- 
istic forms of the cliffs from 
which they have been broken, 
but that morsels of mica slate 
will represent, in a wonder- 
ful manner, the identical 
shape of the peaks of which 
they have formed part. Why 
should it not be so, if the 


mountain's mass is more or 

less homogeneous ? The same 

causes which produce the small forms fashion the large ones ; the 

same influences are at work ; the same frost and rain give shape 

to the mass as well as to its parts. 

Did space permit me, I could give but a sorry idea of the view, 
but it will be readily imagined that a panorama extending over as 
much ground as the whole of England is one worth taking some 
trouble to see, and one which is not often to be seen even in the 
Alps. No clouds obscured it, and a list of the summits that we 
saw would include nearly all the highest peaks of the chain. I 
saw the Pelvoux now — as I had seen the Ecrins from it three years 
before — across the basin of the Glacier Noir. It is a splendid 
mountain, although in height it is equalled, if not surpassed, by its 
neighbour the Alefroide. 

* The most striking example which has come under my notice is referred to in 
Chapter xx. 


We could stay on the summit but a short time, and at a 
quarter to two prepared for the descent. Now, as we looked down, 
and thought of what we had passed over in coming up, we one 
and all hesitated about returning the same way. Moore said, no. 
Walker said the same, and I too ; the guides were both of the 
same mind : this, be it remarked, although we had considered 
that there was no chance whatever of getting up any other way. 
But those ' last rocks ' were not to be forgotten. Had they but 
protruded to a moderate extent, or had they been merely glazed, 
we should doubtless still have tried : but they were not reasonable 
rocks, — they would neither allow us to hold, nor would do it 
themselves. So we turned to the western arete, trusting to luck 
that we should find a way down to the schrund, and some means of 
getting over it afterwards. Our faces were a tolerable index to 
our thoughts, and apparently the thoughts of the party were not 
happy ones. Had any one then said to me, " You are a great fool 
for coming here," I should have answered with humility, " It is too 
true." And had my monitor gone on to say, " Swear you will 
never ascend another mountain if you get down safely," I am 
inclined to think I should have taken the oath. In fact, the game 
here was not worth the risk. The guides felt it as well as our- 
selves, and as Aimer led off, he remarked, with more piety than 
logic, " The good God has brought us up, and he will take us down 
in safety," which showed pretty well what he was thinking about. 

The ridge down which we now endeavoured to make our way 
was not inferior in difficulty to the other. Both were serrated to 
an extent that made it impossible to keep strictly to them, and 
obliged us to descend occasionally for some distance on the north- 
ern face and then mount again. Both were so rotten that the 
most experienced of our party, as well as the least, continually 
upset blocks large and small. Both aretes were so narrow, so thin, 
that it was often a matter for speculation on which side an un- 
stable block would fall. 

At one point it seemed that we should be obliged to return to 



the summit and try the other way down. We were on the very 
edge of the are^te ; on one side was the enormous precipice facing 
the Pelvoux, which is not far from perpendicular ; on the other a 
slope exceeding 50°. A deep notch brought us to an abrupt halt. 
Aimer, who was leading, advanced cautiously to the edge on hands 
and knees, and peered over ; his care was by no means unnecessary, 
for the rocks had broken away from under us unexpectedly several 
times. In this position he looked down for some moments, and 
then, without a word, turned his head and looked at us. His face 
may have expressed apprehension or alarm, but it certainly did not 
show hope or joy. We learned that there was no means of getting 
down, and that we must, if we wanted to pass it, jump across on 
to an unstable block on the other side. It was decided that it should 
be done, and Aimer, with a larger extent of rope than usual, jumped ; 
the rock swayed as he came down upon it, but he clutched a large 
mass with both arms and brought himself to anchor. That which 
was both difficult and dangerous for the first man was easy enough 
for the others, and we got across with less trouble than I expected ; 
stimulated by Croz's perfectly just observation, that if we couldn't 
get across there we were not likely to get down the other way. 

We had now arrived at C, and could no longer continue on 
the ar£te, so we commenced descending the face again. Before 
long we were close to the schrund, but unable to see what it was 
like at this part, as the upper edge bent over. Two hours had 
already passed since leaving the summit, and it began to be highly 
probable that we should have to spend a night on the Glacier 
Blanc. Aimer, who yet led, cut steps right down to the edge, but 
still he could not see below ; therefore, warning us to hold tight, he 
made his whole body rigid, and (standing in the large step which 
he had cut for the purpose), had the upper part of his person 
lowered out until he saw what he wanted. He shouted that our 
work was finished, made me come close to the edge and untie my- 
self, advanced the others until he had rope enough, and then with 
a loud jodel jumped down on to soft snow. Partly by skill and 

2 F 


partly by luck lie had hit the crevasse at its easiest point, and we 
had only to make a downward jump of eight or ten feet. 

It is now 4.45 p.m. ; we had been more than eight hours and a 
half accomplishing the ascent of the final peak, which, according 
to an observation by Mr. Bonney in 1862, is only 525 feet 
high* During this period we had not stopped for more than half- 
an-hour, and our nerves and muscles had been kept at the highest 
degree of tension the whole time. It may be imagined that we 
accepted the ordinary conditions of glacier travelling as an agree- 
able relief, and that that which at another time might have seemed 
formidable we treated as the veriest bagatelle. Late in the day as 
it was, and soft as was the snow, we put on such pace that we 
reached the Col cles Ecrins in less than forty minutes. We lost no 
time in arranging our baggage, for we had still to traverse a long 
glacier, and to get clear of two ice-falls before it was dark ; so, 
at 5.35 we resumed the march, adjourning eating and drinking, 
and put on a spurt which took us clear of the Glacier Blanc by 
7.45 p.M.i* We got clear of the moraine of the Glacier Noir at 8.45, 
just as the last remnant of daylight vanished. Croz and myself 
were a trifle in advance of the others, and fortunately so for us ; for 
as they were about to commence the descent of the snout of the 
glacier, the whole of the moraine that rested on its face peeled off, 
and came down with a tremendous roar. 

We had now the pleasure of walking over a plain that is 
known by the name of the Pre de Madame Carle, covered with 
pebbles of all sizes, and intersected by numerous small streams 
or torrents. Every hole looked like a stone, every stone like a 
hole, and we tumbled about from side to side until our limbs and 
our tempers became thoroughly jaded. My companions, being 
both short-sighted, found the travelling especially disagreeable ; so 

* See vol. i., p. 73, of Alpine Journal. We considered the height assigned to the 
final peak by Mr. Bonney was too small, and thought it should have been 200 feet 

t The Glacier Blanc is in the direction indicated by the arrow below the letter 
E on the outline on p. 21 2. 


there was little wonder that when we came upon a huge mass of 
rock as big as a house, which had fallen from the flanks of Pelvoux, 
a regular cube that offered no shelter whatever, Moore cried out in 
ecstasy, " Oh, how delightful ! the very thing I have been longing 
for. Let us have a perfectly extemporaneous bivouac." This, it 
should be said, was when the night threatened thunder and lightning, 
rain, and all other delights. 

The pleasures of a perfectly extemporaneous bivouac under these 
circumstances not being novelties to Croz and myself, we thought 
we would try for the miseries of a roof, but Walker and Aimer, with 
their usual good nature, declared it was the very thing that they, 
too, were longing for ; so the trio resolved to stop. We generously 
left them all the provisions (a dozen cubic inches or thereabouts of 
bacon fat, and half a candle), and pushed on for the chalets of Ale- 
froide, or at least we thought we did, but could not be certain. In 
the course of half-an-hour we got uncommonly close to the main 
torrent, and Croz all at once disappeared. I stepped cautiously for- 
ward to peer down into the place where I thought he was, and 
quietly tumbled head over heels into a big rhododendron bush. 
Extricating myself with some trouble, I fell backwards over some 
rocks, and got wedged in a cleft so close to the torrent that it 
splashed all over me. 

The colloquy which then ensued amid the thundering of the 
stream was as follows : — 

" Hullo, Croz !" " Eh, Monsieur." " Where are you ?" " Here, 
Monsieur." " Where is here ?" "I don't know ; where are you?" 
" Here, Croz ;" and so on. 

The fact was, from the intense darkness, and the noise of the 
torrent, we had no idea of each other's situation ; in the course of 
ten minutes, however, we joined together again, agreed we had 
quite enough of that kind of thing, and adjourned to a most eligible 
rock at 10.15. 

How well I remember the night at that rock, and the jolly way 
in which Croz came out ! We were both very wet about the legs, 




and both uncommonly hungry, but the time passed pleasantly 
enough round our fire of juniper, and until long past midnight we 
sat up recounting, over our pipes, wonderful stories of the most in- 
credible description, in which, I must admit, my companion beat 
me hollow. Then, throwing ourselves on our beds of rhododendron, 


we slept an untroubled sleep, and rose on a bright Sunday morning 
as fresh as might be, intending to enjoy a day's rest and luxury 
with our friends at La Ville de Val Louise. 

I have failed to give the impression I wish if it has not been 
made evident that the ascent of the Pointe des Ecrins was not an 
ordinary piece of work. There is an increasing disposition now-a- 
days amongst those who write on the Alps, to underrate the diffi- 
culties and dangers which are met with, and this disposition is, I 
think, not less mischievous than the old-fashioned style of making 
everything terrible. Difficult as we found the peak, I believe we 

chap. ix. A WARNING. 221 

took it at the best, perhaps the only possible, time of the year. The 
great slope on which we spent so much time was, from being 
denuded by the avalanche of which I have spoken, deprived of its 
greatest danger. Had it had the snow still resting upon it, and 
had we persevered with the expedition, we should almost without 
doubt have ended with calamity instead of success. The ice of that 
slope is always below, its angle is severe, and the rocks do not pro- 
ject sufficiently to afford the support that snow requires, to be 
stable, when at a great angle. So far am I from desiring to tempt 
any one to repeat the expedition, that I put it on record as my belief, 
however sad and however miserable a man may have been, if he is 
found on the summit of the Pointe des Ecrins after a fall of new 
snow, he is likely to experience misery far deeper than anything 
with which he has hitherto been acquainted * 

* The ascent of the Pointe des Ecrins has been made once since 1864, by a French 
gentleman, named Vincent, with the Chamounix guides Jean Carrier and Alexandre 
Tournier. They followed our route, but reversed it ; that is to say, ascended by the 
western, and descended by the eastern arete. 

The best course to adopt in future attacks on the mountain, would be to bring a 
ladder, or some other means of passing the bergschrund, in its centre, immediately 
under the summit. One could then proceed directly upwards, and so avoid the labour 
and difficulties which are inevitable upon any ascent by way of the aretes. 



" How pleasant it is for him who is saved to remember his danger." 


From Ailefroide to Claux, but for the path, travel would be scarcely 
more easy than over the Pre de Madame Carle* The valley is 
strewn with immense masses of gneiss, from the size of a large 
house downwards, and it is only occasionally that rock in situ is 
seen, so covered up is it up by the debris, which seems to have 
been derived almost entirely from the neighbouring cliffs.*)" 

It was Sunday, a " day most calm and bright." Golden sun- 
light had dispersed the clouds, and was glorifying the heights, and 
we forgot hunger through the brilliancy of the morning and beauty 
of the mountains. 

We meant the 26th to be a day of rest, but it was little that we 
found in the cabaret of Claude Giraud, and we fled before the babel 
of sound which rose in intensity as men descended to a depth which 
is unattainable by the beasts of the field, and found at the chalets 
of Entraigues \ the peace that had been denied to us at Val Louise. 

* For route, see map in chap. ix. 

j About half-a-mile above Claux there is a precipitous fall in the valley, and 
there (where the bed rock is too steep to allow debris to accumulate) roches mouton- 
nees can be seen. At the same place the torrent of Aile Froide falls by some steep 
rapids through a wall-sided gorge, and the former eddyings of the water can be 
traced high up upon the cliffs. 

J The path from Ville de Val Louise to Entraigues is good and well shaded by 
luxuriant foliage. The valley (d'Entraigues) is narrow ; bordered by fine cliffs ; and 
closed at its western end by a noble block of mountains, which looks much higher 


Again we were received with the most cordial hospitality. 
Everything that was eatable or drinkable was brought out and 
pressed upon us ; every little curiosity was exhibited ; every in- 
formation that could be afforded was given ; and when we retired 
to our clean straw, we again congratulated each other that we had 
escaped from the foul den which is where a good inn should be, 
and had cast in our lot with those who dwell in chalets. Very 
luxurious that straw seemed after two nights upon quartz pebbles 
and glacier mud, and I felt quite aggrieved (expecting it was the 
summons for departure) when, about midnight, the heavy wooden 
door creaked on its hinges, and a man hem'd and ha'd to attract 
attention ; but when it whispered, " Monsieur Edvard," I per- 
ceived my mistake, — it was our Pelvoux companion, Monsieur 
Keynaud, the excellent agent-voyer of La Bessee. 

Monsieur Keynaud had been invited to accompany us on the 
excursion that is described in this chapter, but had arrived at Val 
Louise after we had left, and had energetically pursued us during 
the night. Our idea was that a pass might be made over the 
high ridge called (on the French map) CrSte de Ba3ufs Eouges,* 
near to the peak named Les Bans, which might be the shortest 
route in time (as it certainly would be in distance) from Val 
Louise, across the Central Dauphine Alps. We had seen the 
northern (or Pilatte) side from the Breche de la Meije, and it 
seemed to be practicable at one place near the above-mentioned 
mountain. More than that could not be told at a distance of 

than it is. The highest point (the Pic de Bonvoisin) is 11,500 feet. Potatoes, peas, and 
other vegetables, are grown at Entraigues (5284 feet), although the situation of the 
chalets is bleak, and cut off from the sun. 

The Combe (or Vallon) de la Selle joins the main valley at Entraigues, and one 
can pass from the former by the little-known Col de Loup (immediately to the south 
of the Pic de Bonvoisin) into the Val Godemar. Two other passes, both of consider- 
able height, lead from the head of the Yallon de la Selle into the valleys of Champo- 
leon and Argentiere. 

r This, like many other names given to mountains and glaciers on sheet 189, is 
not a local name, or, at least, is not one that is in common use. 


eleven miles. We intended to try to hit a point on the ridge 
immediately above the part where it seemed to be easiest. 

We left Entraignes at 3.30 on the morning of June 27, and 
proceeded, over very gently-inclined ground; towards the foot of 
the Pic de Bonvoisin (following in fact the route of the Col de 
Sellar, which leads from the Val Louise into the Val Godemar) ;* 
and at 5 A.M., finding that there was no chance of obtaining a view 
from the bottom of the valley of the ridge over which our route 
was to be taken, sent Aimer up the lower slopes of the Bonvoisin 
to reconnoitre. He telegraphed that we might proceed ; and at 
5.45 we quitted the snow-beds at the bottom of the valley for 
the slopes which rose towards the north. 

The course was N.N. W., and was prodigiously steep. In less than 
two miles' difference of latitude we rose one mile of absolute height. 
But the route was so far from being an exceptionally difficult one, 
that at 10.45 we stood on the summit of the pass, having made an 
ascent of more than 5000 feet in five hours, inclusive of halts. 

Upon sheet 189 of the Trench map a glacier is laid down on 
the south of the Crete des Boeufs Bouges, extending along the 
entire length of the ridge, at its foot, from east to west. In 1864 
this glacier did not exist as one glacier, but in the place where it 
should have been there were several small ones, all of which were, 
I believe, separated from each other/)" 

We commenced the ascent from the Val d'Entraigues, to the 
west of the most western of these small glaciers, and quitted the 
valley by the first great gap in its cliffs after that glacier was 
passed. We did not take to the ice until it afforded an easier route 
than the rocks ; then (8.30) Croz went to the front, and led with 

* The height of Col de Sellar (or de Celar) is 10,073 feet (Forbes). I was told 
by peasants at Entraigues that sheep and goats can be easily taken across it. 

f See map on p. 202. It is perhaps just possible, although improbable, that 
these little glaciers were united together at the time that the survey was made. 
Since then the glaciers of Dauphine (as throughout the Alps generally) have shrunk 
very considerably. A notable diminution took place in their size in 1869, which 
was attributed by the natives to the very heavy rains of that year. 




admirable skill through a 
maze of crevasses up to 
the foot of a great snow 
couloir, that rose from the 
head of the glacier to the 
summit of the ridge over 
which we had to pass. 

We had settled before- 
hand in London, without 
knowing anything what- 
ever about the place, that 
such a couloir as this 
should be in this angle ; 
but when we got into 
the Val d'Entraigues, and 
found that it was not pos- 
sible to see into the cor- 
ner, our faith in its exist- 
ence became less and less, 
until the telegraphing of 
Aimer, who was sent up the 
opposite slopes to search 
for it, assured us that we 
were true prophets. 

Snow couloirs are no- 
thing; more or less than 

w, yMPhR, sc 


2 G 


gullies partly filled by snow. They are most useful institutions, 
and may be considered as natural highways placed, by a kind Pro- 
vidence, in convenient situations for getting over places which 
would otherwise be inaccessible. They are a joy to the moun- 
taineer, and, from afar, assure him of a path when all beside is 
uncertain ; but they are grief to novices, who, when upon steep 
snow, are usually seized with two notions — first, that the snow will 
slip, and secondly, that those who are upon it must slip too. 

Nothing, perhaps, could look much more unpromising to those 
who do not know the virtues of couloirs than such a place as the 
engraving represents,* and if persons inexperienced in mountain 
craft had occasion to cross a ridge or to climb rocks, in which there 
were such couloirs, they would instinctively avoid them. But prac- 
tised mountaineers would naturally look to them for a path, and 
would follow them almost as a matter of course, unless they turned 
out to be filled with ice, or too much swept by falling stones, or 
the rock at the sides proved to be of such an exceptional character 
as to afford an easier path than the snow. 

Couloirs look prodigiously steep when seen from the front, and, 
so viewed, it is impossible to be certain of their inclination within 
many degrees. Snow, however, does actually lie at steeper angles 
in couloirs than in any other situations ; — 45° to 50° degrees is not 
an uncommon inclination. Even at such angles, two men with 
proper axes can mount on snow at the rate of 700 to 800 feet per 
hour. The same amount can only be accomplished in the same 
time on steep rocks when they are of the very easiest character, 
and four or five hours may be readily spent upon an equal 
height of difficult rocks. Snow couloirs are therefore to be com- 
mended because they economise time. 

Of course, in all gullies, one is liable to be encountered by fall- 
ing stones. Most of those which fall from the rocks of a couloir, 

* This drawing was made to illustrate the remarks which follow. It docs not re- 
present any particular couloir, but it would serve, tolerably well, as a portrait of the 
one which we ascended when crossing the Col de Pilatte. 

chap. x. MONSIE UR RE YNA UD. 227 

sooner or later spin down the snow which fills the trough ; and, as 
their course and pace are more clearly apparent when falling over 
snow than when jumping from ledge to ledge, persons with lively 
imaginations are readily impressed by them. The grooves which 
are usually seen wandering down the length of snow couloirs are 
deepened (and, perhaps, occasionally originated) by falling stones, 
and they are sometimes pointed out by cautious men as reasons 
why couloirs should not be followed. I think they are very fre- 
quently only gutters, caused by water trickling off the rocks. 
Whether this is so or not, one should always consider the possi- 
bility of being struck by falling stones, and, in order to lessen the 
risk as far as possible, should mount upon the sides of the snow, 
and not up its centre. Stones that come off the rocks then fly over 
one's head, or bound down the middle of the trough at a safe distance. 

At 9.30 a.m. we commenced the ascent of the couloir leading 
from the nameless glacier to a point in the ridge, just to the east 
of Mont Bans.* So far the route had been nothing more than a 
steep grind in an angle where little could be seen, but now views 
opened out in several directions, and the way began to be interest- 
ing. It was more so, perhaps, to us than to our companion M. 
Eeynaud, who had no rest in the last night. He was, moreover, 
heavily laden. Science was to be regarded — his pockets were 
stuffed with books; heights and angles were to be observed — his 
knapsack was filled with instruments ; hunger was to be guarded 
against — his shoulders were ornamented with a huge nimbus of 
bread, and a leg of mutton swung behind from his knapsack, look- 
ing like an overgrown tail. Like a good-hearted fellow, he had 
brought this food, thinking we might be in need of it. As it hap- 
pened, we were well provided for, and having our own packs to 
carry, could not relieve him of his superfluous burdens, which, 
naturally, he did not like to throw away. As the angles steepened, 

The upper part of the southern side of the Col de Pilatte, and the small glaciers 
spoken of on p. 224, can be seen from the high road leading from Briancon to Mont 
Dauphin, between the 12th and 13th kilometre stones (from Briancon). 


the strain on his strength became more and more apparent. At 
last he began to groan. At first a most gentle and mellow groan ; 
bnt as we rose so did his groans, till at last the cliffs were groaning 
in echo, and we were moved to laughter. 

Croz cnt the way with unflagging energy throughout the whole 
of the ascent, and at 10.45 we stood on the summit of our pass, 
intending to refresh ourselves with a good halt ; but just at that 
moment a mist, which had been playing about the ridge, swooped 
down and blotted out the whole of the view on the northern side. 
Croz was the only one who caught a glimpse of the descent, and it 
was deemed advisable to push on immediately while its recollection 
was fresh in his memory. We are consequently unable to tell 
anything about the summit of the pass, except that it lies imme- 
diately to the east of Mont Bans, and is elevated about 11,300 feet 
above the level of the sea. It is the highest pass in Dauphine. 
We called it the Col de Pilatte. 

We commenced to descend towards the Glacier de Pilatte by a 
slope of smooth ice, the face of which, according to the measure- 
ment of Mr. Moore, had an inclination of 54° ! Croz still led, and 
the others followed at intervals of about 15 feet, all being tied 
together, and Aimer occupying the responsible position of last 
man : the two guides were therefore about 70 feet apart. They 
were quite invisible to each other from the mist, and looked spectral 
even to us. But the strong man could be heard by all hewing out 
the steps below, while every now and then the voice of the steady 
man pierced the cloud, — " Slip not, dear sirs ; place well your feet : 
stir not until you are certain." 

For three quarters of an hour we progressed in this fashion. 
The axe of Croz all at once stopped. " What is the matter, Croz ?" 
" Bergschrund, gentlemen." " Can we get over?" "Upon my 
word, I don't know ; I think we must jump." The clouds rolled 
away right and left as he spoke. The effect was dramatic ! It was 
a coup de thMtre, preparatory to the ' great sensation leap ' which 
was about to be executed by the entire company. 



Some unseen cause, some cliff or obstruction in the rocks 
underneath, had caused our wall of ice to split into two portions, 
and the huge fissure which had thus been formed extended, on each 
hand, as far as could be seen. We, on the slope above, were sepa- 
rated from the slope below by a mighty crevasse. No running up 
and down to look for an easier place to cross could be done on an 
ice-slope of 54° ; the chasm had to be passed then and there. 

A downward jump of 15 or 16 feet, and a forward leap of 7 or 8 
feet had to be made at the same time. That is not much, you will 
say. It was not much ; it was not the quantity, but it was the 
quality of the jump which gave to it its particular flavour. You 
had to hit a narrow ridge of ice. If that was passed, it seemed as 
if you might roll down for ever and ever. If it was not attained, 
you dropped into the crevasse below, which, although partly choked 
by icicles and snow that had fallen from above, was still gaping in 
many places, ready to receive an erratic body. 

Croz untied Walker in order to get rope enough, and warning us 
to hold fast, sprang over the chasm. He alighted cleverly on his 
feet ; untied himself and sent up the rope to Walker, who followed 
his example. It was then my turn, and I advanced to the edge of 
the ice. The second which followed was what is called a supreme 
moment. That is to say, I felt supremely ridiculous. The world 
seemed to revolve at a frightful pace, and my stomach to fly away. 
The next moment I found myself sprawling in the snow, and then, 
of course, vowed that it was nothing, and prepared to encourage my 
friend Eeynaud. 

He came to the edge and made declarations. I do not believe 
that he was a whit more reluctant to pass the place than we others, 
but he was infinitely more demonstrative, — in a word, he was 
French. He wrung his hands, " Oh ! what a diable of a place ! " 
:< It is nothing, Eeynaud," I said, " it is nothing." " Jump," cried 
the others, "jump." But he turned round, as far as one can do 
such a thing in an ice-step, and covered his face with his hands, 
ejaculating, " Upon my word, it is not possible. No ! no ! ! no ! ! ! 
it is not possible." 


How he came over I do not know. We saw a toe — it seemed 
to belong to Moore ; we saw lieynaud a flying body, coming down 
as if taking a header into water ; with arms and legs all abroad, his 
leg of mutton flying in the air, his baton escaped from his grasp ; 
and then we heard a thud as if a bundle of carpets had been 
pitched out of a window. When set upon his feet he was a sorry 
spectacle ; his head was a great snowball ; brandy was trickling 
out of one side of the knapsack, chartreuse out of the other — we 
bemoaned its loss, but we roared with laughter. 

This chapter has already passed the limits within which it 
should have been confined, but I cannot close it without paying 
tribute to the ability with which Croz led us, through a dense mist, 
down the remainder of the Glacier de Pilatte. As an exhibition of 
strength and skill, it has probably never been surpassed in the Alps 
or elsewhere. On this almost unknown and very steep glacier, he 
was perfectly at home, even in the mists. Never able to see fifty 
feet ahead, he still went on with the utmost certainty, and without 
having to retrace a single step ; and displayed from first to last 
consummate knowledge of the materials with which he was dealing. 
Now he cut steps down one side of a serac, went with a dash at the 
other side, and hauled us up after him ; then cut away along a 
ridge until a point was gained from which we could jump on to 
another ridge ; then, doubling back, found a snow-bridge, across 
which he crawled on hands and knees, towed us across by the legs, 
ridiculing our apprehensions, mimicking our awkwardness, declin- 
ing all help, bidding us only to follow him. 

About 1 p.m. we emerged from the mist and found ourselves 
just arrived upon the level portion of the glacier, having, as Key- 
naud properly remarked, come down as quickly as if there had not 
been any mist at all. Then we attacked the leg of mutton which 
my friend had so thoughtfully brought with him, and afterwards 
raced down, with renewed energy, to La Berarde. 

Eeynaud and I walked together to St. Christophe, where we 

chap. x. THE LAST OF DAUPHIN E. 231 

parted. Since then we have talked over the doings of this moment- 
ous day ; and I know that he would not, for a good deal, have 
missed the passage of the Col de Pilatte, although we failed to make 
it an easier or a shorter route than the Col du Sele. I rejoined 
Moore and Walker, the same evening, at Yenos, and on the next 
day went with them over the Lautaret road to the hospice on its 
summit, where we slept. 

So our little campaign in Dauphine came to an end. It was re- 
markable for the absence of failures, and for the ease and precision 
with which all our plans were carried out. This was clue very 
much to the spirit of my companions ; but it was also owing to the 
fine weather which we were fortunate enough to enjoy, and to our 
making a very early start every morning. By beginning our work 
at or before the break of day, on the longest days in the year, we 
were not only able to avoid hurrying when deliberation w T as de- 
sirable, but could afford to spend several hours in delightful ease 
whenever the fancy seized us. 

I cannot too strongly recommend to tourists in search of 
amusement to avoid the inns of Dauphine. Sleep in the chalets. 
Get what food you can from the inns, but by no means attempt to 
pass a night in them * Sleep in them you cannot. M. Joanne says 
that the inventor of the insecticide powder was a native of Dau- 
phine. I can well believe it. He must have often felt the 
necessity of such an invention in his infancy and childhood. 

On June 29 I crossed the Col du Galibier to St. Michel ; 
on the 30th, the Col des Encombres to Moutiers ; on July 1, the 
Col du Bonhomme to Contamines ; and on the 2d, by the Pavilion 
de Belle vue to Chamounix, where I joined Mr. Adams-Eeilly 
to take part in some expeditions which had been planned long 

* A pound of Liebig's extract and a few pounds of chocolate are all that need be 
taken in the way of food ; the rest can be obtained on the spot. 



<; Nothing binds men so closely together as agreement in plans and desires." 


Ten years ago very few persons knew from personal knowledge 
how extremely inaccurately the chain of Mont Blanc was de- 
lineated. During the previous half-century thousands had made 
the tour of the chain, and in that time at least one thousand indi- 
viduals had stood upon its highest summit ; but out of all this 
number there was not one capable, willing, or able, to map the 
mountain which, until recently, was regarded the highest in 

Many persons knew that great blunders had been perpetrated, 
and it was notorious that even Mont Blanc itself was represented 
in a ludicrously incorrect manner on all sides excepting the north ; 
but there was not, perhaps, a single individual who knew, at the 
time to which I refer, that errors of no less than 1000 feet had 
been committed in the determination of heights at each end of the 
chain ; that some glaciers were represented of double their real 
dimensions ; and that ridges and mountains were laid clown which 
actually had no existence. 

One portion alone of the entire chain had been surveyed at the 
time of which I speak with anything like accuracy. It was not 
done (as one Avould have expected) by a Government, but by a 
private individual, — by the British De Saussure, — the late J. 
]). Forbes. In the year 1842, he "made a special survey of the 

chap. xi. MAPS OF MONT BLANO. 233 

Mer de Glace of Chamounix and its tributaries, which, in some of 
the following years, he extended by further observations, so as to 
include the Glacier des Bossons." The map produced from this 
survey was worthy of its author ; and subsequent explorers of the 
region he investigated have been able to detect only trivial inac- 
curacies in his work. 

The district surveyed by Forbes remained a solitary bright spot 
in a region where all besides was darkness until the year 1861. 
Praiseworthy attempts were made by different hands to throw light 
upon the gloom, but the efforts were ineffectual, and showed how 
labour may be thrown away by a number of observers working 
independently, without the direction of a single head. 

In 1861, Sheet xxii. of Dufour's Map of Switzerland appeared. 
It included the section of the chain of Mont Blanc that belonged 
to Switzerland, and this portion of the sheet was executed with the 
admirable fidelity and thoroughness which characterise the whole 
of Dufour's unique map. The remainder of the chain (amount- 
ing to about four-fifths of the whole) was laid down after the 
work of previous topographers, and its wretchedness was made more 
apparent by contrast with the finished work of the Swiss surveyors. 

Strong hands were needed to complete the survey, and it was 
not long before the right men appeared. 

In 1863, Mr. Adams-Eeilly, who had been travelling in the 
Alps during several years, resolved to attempt a survey of the un- 
surveyed portions of the chain of Mont Blanc. He provided him- 
self with a good theodolite, and starting from a base-line measured 
by Forbes in the Valley of Chamounix, determined the positions of 
no less than 200 points. The accuracy of his work may be judged 
from the fact that, after having turned many corners and carried 
his observations over a distance of fifty, miles, his Col Ferret " fell 
within 200 yards of the position assigned to it by General Dufour !" 

In the winter of 1863 and the spring of 1864, Mr. Beilly con- 
structed an entirely original map from his newly-acquired data. 
The spaces between his trigonometrically-determined points he 

2 H 


filled in after photographs, and a series of panoramic sketches which 
he made from his different stations. The map so produced was 
an immense advance upon those already in existence, and it was 
the first which exhibited the great peaks in their proper positions. 

This extraordinary piece of work revealed Mr. Eeilly to me as a 
man of wonderful determination and perseverance. With very 
small hope that my proposal would be accepted, I invited him to 
take part in renewed attacks on the Matterhorn. He entered 
heartily into my plans, and met me with a counter-proposition, 
namely, that I should accompany him on some expeditions which 
he had projected in the chain of Mont Blanc. The unwritten con- 
tract took this form : — I will help you to carry out your desires, and 
you shall assist me to carry out mine. I eagerly closed with an 
arrangement in which all the advantages were upon my side. 

At the time that Mr. Eeilly was carrying on his survey, Captain 
Mieulet was executing another in continuation of the great map of 
France ; for about one-half of the chain of Mont Blanc (including 
the whole of the Valley of Chamounix) had recently become French 
once more. Captain Mieulet was directed to survey up to his 
frontier only, and the sheet which was destined to include his 
work was to be engraved, of course, upon the scale of the rest of 
the map, viz., swo o" of nature. But upon representations being 
made at head-quarters that it would be of great advantage to ex- 
tend the survey as far as Cormayeur, Captain Mieulet was directed 
to continue his observations into the south (or Italian) side of the 
chain. A special sheet on the scale of two o was promptly en- 
graved from the materials he accumulated, and was published in 
1865, by order of the late Minister of War, Marshal Bandon* This 
sheet was admirably executed, but it included the central portion 
of the chain only, and a complete map was still wanting. 

Mr. Eeilly presented his MS. map to the English Alpine Club. 
It was resolved that it should be published ; but before it passed 

* Under the title of Massif du Mont Blanc, cxtrait dcs minutes cle la Carte dc France, 
leve par M. Mieulet, Capitainc cVEtat Major. 

chap. xi. THE CHAIN OF MONT BLANO. 235 

into the engraver's hands its author undertook to revise it carefully. 
To this end he planned a number of expeditions to high points 
which up to that time had been regarded inaccessible, and it 
was upon some of these ascents he invited me to accompany 

Before I pass on to these expeditions (which will be described 
very briefly, as I hope that Mr. Eeilly himself will publish an 
account of his remarkable explorations), it will be convenient to 
devote a few paragraphs to the topography of the chain of Mont 

At the present time the chain is divided betwixt France, 
Switzerland, and Italy. France has the lion's share, Switzerland 
the most fertile portion, and Italy the steepest side. It has acquired 
a reputation which is not extraordinary, but which is not wholly 
merited. It has neither the beauty of the Oberland, nor the 
sublimity of Dauphine. But it attracts the vulgar by the 
possession of the highest summit in the Alps. If that is removed, 
the elevation of the chain is in nowise remarkable. In fact, 
excluding Mont Blanc itself, the mountains of which the chain is 
made up are less important than those of the Oberland and the 
central Pennine groups. The following table will afford a ready 
means of comparison.^ 

* Mr. Keilly's map was published on a scale of ^^ in 1865, at the cost of the 
Alpine Club, under the title The Chain of Mont Blanc. 

t See the map of the chain of Mont Blanc at the end of the volume. 

This map has-been drawn after the surveys of Mieulet, Dufour, and Reilly. To 
assist in its production, the Depot de la Guerre at Paris most liberally furnished me 
with special copies of Captain Mieulet's map. These were reduced, by photograiDhy, 
to the scale of ^^, which is the same as that of Dufour's map. The Swiss portion 
of the chain was then fitted on to the reduction. Photographic reductions of the 
basin of the Glacier du Tour and of the whole of that portion of the chain which lies 
to the west of the southern Glacier de Miage and to the south of the Glacier de 
Trelatete were then added from Mr. Reilly' s map. The nomenclature of these 
authorities has been strictly followed. It may be remarked, however, that Captain 
Mieulet has departed, in many instances, from the spelling in common use. 

X The heights (in metres) are after Captain Mieulet. 







Eng. feet.* 


Mont Blanc 

4810 = 

: 15,781 


Grandes Jorasses 




Aiguille Verte 





de Bionnassay 




Les Droites 

4030 . 



Aiguille clu Geant . 





de Trelatete, No. 





55 55 




55 55 










de Triolet 





du Midi . 





du Glacier 


. 12,579 


Mont Dolent 




Aiguille du Chardonnet 


. 12,543 



du Dm 


. 12,517 



de Miage . 





du Plan 





de Blaitiere 


. 11,591 



des Charmoz 



The frontier-line follows the main ridge. Very little of it can 
be seen from the Valley of Chamounix, and from the village itself 
two small strips only are visible (amounting to scarcely three miles 
in length), viz. from the summit of Mont Blanc to the Dome du 
Gouter, and in the neighbourhood of the Col de Balme. All the 
rest is concealed by outlying ridges and by mountains of secondary 

Mont Blanc itself is bounded by the two glaciers of Miage, the 
glaciers de la Brenva and du Geant, the Val Veni and the Valley 
of Chamounix. A long ridge runs out towards the N.N.E. from 
the summit, through Mont Maudit, to the Aiguille du Midi. 
Another ridge proceeds towards the N.W., through the Bosse du 
Dromadaire to the Dome du Gouter ; this then divides into two, 
of which one continues N.W. to the Aiguille du Gouter, the other 

* Some of these heights have no business to figure in a list of the principal peaks 
of the chain, being nothing more than teeth or pinnacles in ridges, or portions of 
higher mountains. Such, for example, are the Aiguilles du Geant, du Dru, and de 


(which is a part of the main ridge of the chain) towards the W. 
to the Aiguille de Bionnassay. The two routes which are 
commonly followed for the ascent of Mont Blanc lie between these 
two principal ridges — one leading from Chamounix, via the Grands 
Mulets, the other from the village of Bionnassay, via the Aiguille 
and Dome du Gouter .* 

The ascent of Mont Blanc has been made from several direc- 
tions besides these, and perhaps there is no single point of the 
compass from which the mountain cannot be ascended. But 
there is not the least probability that any one will discover easier 
ways to the summit than those already known. 

I believe it is correct to say that the Aiguille du Midi and the 
Aiguille de Miage were the only two summits in the chain of 
Mont Blanc which had been ascended at the beginning of 1864t 
The latter of these two is a perfectly insignificant point ; and the 
former is only a portion of one of the ridges just now mentioned, 
and can hardly be regarded as a mountain separate and distinct 
from Mont Blanc. The really great peaks of the chain were 
considered inaccessible, and, I think, with the exception of the 
Aiguille Verte, had never been assailed. 

The finest, as well as the highest peak in the chain (after 
Mont Blanc itself), is the Grandes Jorasses. The next, without a 
doubt, is the Aiguille Verte. The Aiguille de Bionnassay, which 
in actual height follows the Verte, should be considered as a part 
of Mont Blanc ; and in the same way the summit called Les 
Droites is only a part of the ridge which culminates in the Verte. 
The Aiguille de Trelatete is the next on the list that is entitled 
to be considered a separate mountain, and is by far the most 
important peak (as well as the highest) at the south-west end of 
the chain. Then comes the Aiguille d'Argentiere, which occupies 
the same rank at the north-east end as the last-mentioned mountain 
does in the south-west. The rest of the aiguilles are comparatively 
insignificant ; and although some of them (such as the Mont 

* These routes are laid down on the Map. f Besides Mont Blanc itself. 


Dolent) look well from low elevations, and seem to possess a certain 
importance, they sink into their proper places directly one arrives 
at a considerable altitude. 

The summit of the Aiguille Verte would have been one of the 
best stations out of all these mountains for the purposes of my 
friend. Its great height, and its isolated and commanding position, 
make it a most admirable point for viewing the intricacies of the 
chain ; but he exercised a wise discretion in passing it by, and in 
selecting as our first excursion the passage of the Col de Triolet .* 

We slept under some big rocks on the Couvercle on the night 
of July 7, with the thermometer at 2 6 '5 Faht., and at 4*30 on the 
8th made a straight track to the north of the Jardin, and thence 
went in zigzags, to break the ascent, over the upper slopes of the 
Glacier de Talefre towards the foot of the Aiguille de Triolet. Croz 
was still my guide, Eeilly was accompanied by one of the Michel 
Payots of Chamounix, and Henri Charlet, of the same place, was 
our porter. 

The way was over an undulating plain of glacier of moderate 
inclination until the corner leading to the Col, from whence a steep 
secondary glacier led down into the basin of the Talefre. We 
experienced no difficulty in making the ascent of this secondary 
glacier with such ice-men as Croz and Payot, and aX 7.50 a.m. 
arrived on the top of the so-called pass, at a height, according to 
Mieulet, of 12,162 feet, and 4530 above our camp on the Couvercle. 

The descent was commenced by very steep, but firm, rocks, and 
then by a branch of the Glacier de Triolet. Schrundst were abun- 
dant ; there were no less than five extending completely across 
the glacier, all of which had to be jumped. Not one was equal in 
dimensions to the extraordinary chasm on the Col de Pilatte, but 

* Previous to this we made an attempt to ascend the Aiguille d'Argentiere, and 
were defeated by a violent wind when within a hundred feet of the summit. It is 
more convenient to refer to this expedition at the end of the chapter. 

t Great crevasses. A bergschrund is a schrund, but something more. (See 
Chap, xiv.) 

chap. XI. THE COL DE TRIOLET. 239 

in the aggregate they far surpassed it. " Our lives/' so Eeilly ex- 
pressed it, " were made a burden to us with schrunds." 

Several spurs run out towards the south-east from the ridge at 
the head of the Glacier de Triolet, and divide it into a number of 
bays. We descended the most northern of these, and when we 
emerged from it on to the open glacier, just at the junction of our 
bay with the next one, there we came across a most beautiful ice- 
arch, festooned with icicles, the decaying remnant of an old serac, 
which stood, isolated, full 30 feet above the surface of the glacier ! 
It was an accident, and I have not seen its like elsewhere. When 
I passed the spot in 1865 no vestige of it remained. 

We nattered ourselves that we should arrive at the chalets of Pre 
du Bar very early in the day ; but, owing to much time being lost 
on the slopes of Mont Eouge, it was nearly 4 p.m. before we got to 
them. There were no bridges across the torrent nearer than Gruetta, 
and rather than descend so far, we preferred to round the base of 
Mont Eouge, and to cross the snout of the Glacier du Mont Dolent.* 

We occupied the 9th with the ascent of the Mont Dolent. 
This was a miniature ascent. It contained a little of everything. 
First we went up to the Col Ferret (No. 1), and had a little grind 
over shaly banks ; then there was a little walk over grass ; then 
a little tramp over a moraine (which, strange to say, gave a plea- 
sant path) ; then a little zigzagging over the snow-covered glacier 
of Mont Dolent. Then there was a little bergschrund ; then a little 
wall of snow, — which we mounted by the side of a little buttress ; 
and when we struck the ridge descending S.E. from the summit, we 
found a little arete of snow leading to the highest point. The 
summit itself was little, — very small indeed ; it was the loveliest 
little cone of snow that was ever piled up on mountain-top ; so 

The passage of the Col de Triolet from the Couvercle to Pre du Bar occupied 8g 
hours of actual walking. If it had been taken in the contrary direction it would 
have consumed a much longer time. It gave a route shorter than any known at the 
time between Chamounix and the St. Bernard. As a pass I cannot conscientiously 
recommend it to any one (see Chap, xix.), nor am I desirous to go again over the 
moraine on the left bank of the Glacier de Triolet, or the rocks of Mont Rouge. 


soft, so pure ; it seemed a crime to defile it ; it was a miniature 
Jungfrau, a toy summit, you could cover it with the hand * 

But there was nothing little about the view from the Mont 
Dolent. [Situated at the junction of three mountain ridges, it rises 
in a positive steeple far above anything in its immediate neighbour- 
hood ; and certain gaps in the surrounding ridges, which seem 
contrived for that especial purpose, extend the view in almost every 
direction. The precipices which descend to the Glacier d'Argentiere 
I can only compare to those of the Jungfrau, and the ridges on both 
sides of that glacier, especially the steep rocks of Les Droites and 
Les Courtes, surmounted by the sharp snow-peak of the Aig. Verte, 
have almost the effect of the Grandes Jorasses. Then, framed, as 
it were, between the massive tower of the Aig. de Triolet and the 
more distant Jorasses, lies, without exception, the most delicately 
beautiful picture I have ever seen — the whole massif of Mont Blanc, 
raising its great head of snow far above the tangled series of flying 
buttresses which uphold the Monts Maudits, supported on the left 
by Mont Peuteret and by the mass of ragged aiguilles which over- 
hang the Brenva. This aspect of Mont Blanc is not new, but from 
this point its pose is unrivalled, and it has all the superiority of a 
picture grouped by the hand of a master. . . . The view is as 
extensive, and far more lovely than that from Mont Blanc itself.] t 

We went down to Cormayeur, and on the afternoon of July 10 
started from that place to camp on Mont Sue, for the ascent of the 
Aiguille de Trelat^te ; hopeful that the mists which were hanging 
about would clear away. They did not, so we deposited ourselves, 
and a vast load of straw, on the moraine of the Miage Glacier, just 
above the Lac de Combal, in a charming little hole which some 
solitary shepherd had excavated beneath a great slab of rock. We 
spent the night there, and the whole of the next day, unwilling 

* The ascent of Mont Dolent and return to Pre du Bar (inclusive of halts) occu- 
pied less than 11 hours. 

+ The bracketed paragraphs in this chapter are extracted from the notes of Mr. 





to run away, and equally so to get into difficulties by venturing 
into the mist. It was a dull time, and I 
grew restless. Eeilly read to me a lecture 
on the excellence of patience, and composed 
himself in an easy attitude, to pore over the 
pages of a yellow-covered book. " Patience," 
I said to him viciously, " comes very easily 
to fellows who have shilling novels ; but I 

have not got one ; I have picked all the mud out of the nails of 
my boots, and have skinned my face ; what 
shall I do ?" " Go and study the moraine 
of the Miage," said he. I went, and came 
back after an hour. " What news ? " cried 
Eeilly, raising himself on his elbow. "Very 
little ; it's a big moraine, bigger than I 
thought, with ridge outside ridge, like a fortified camp ; and there 
are walls upon it which have been built 
and loop-holed, as if for defence. " Try 
again," he said, as he threw himself on his 
back. But I went to Croz, who was asleep, 
and tickled his nose with a straw until 
he awoke ; and then, as that amusement was played out, watched 
Eeilly, who was getting numbed, and shifted c 

uneasily from side to side, and threw him- 
self on his stomach, and rested his head 
on his elbows, and lighted his pipe and 
puffed at it savagely. When I looked again, 
how was Eeilly? An indistinguishable 
heap ; arms, legs, head, stones, and straw, all mixed together, his 
hat flung on one side, his novel tossed far 
away ! Then I went to him, and read him 
a lecture on the excellence of patience. 

Bah ! it was a dull time. Our moun- 
tain, like a beautiful coquette, sometimes 
unveiled herseK for a moment, and looked charming above, although 

2 i 




very mysterious below. It was not until eventide she allowed 
us to approach her ; then, as darkness came on, the curtains were 
withdrawn, the light drapery was lifted, and we stole up on tiptoe 
through the grand portal framed by Mont Sue. But night advanced 
rapidly, and we found ourselves left out in the cold, without a hole 
to creep into or shelter from overhanging rock. We might have 
fared badly, except for our good plaids. But when they were 

A 8#^ ! 


sewn together down their long edges, and one end tossed over our 
rope (which was passed round some rocks), and the other secured 
by stones, there was sufficient protection ; and we slept on this 
exposed ridge, 9700 feet above the level of the sea, more soundly, 
perhaps, than if we had been lying on feather beds. 

We left our bivouac at 4.45 a.m., and at 9.40 arrived upon the 

* From a sketch by Mr. Adams-RciUy. This camp was immediately at the foot 
of the snow seen upon the map to the N. W. of the words Mont Sue. 


highest of the three summits of the Trelatete, by passing over the 
lowest one. It was well above everything at this end of the chain, 
and the view from it was extraordinarily magnificent. The whole of 
the western face of Mont Blanc was spread out before us ; we were 
the first by whom it had been ever seen. I cede the description of 
this view to my comrade, to whom it rightfully belongs. 

[For four years I had felt great interest in the geography of the 
chain ; the year before I had mapped, more or less successfully, all 
but this spot, and this spot had always eluded my grasp. The 
praises, undeserved as they were, which my map had received, 
were as gall and wormwood to me when I thought of that great 
slope which I had been obliged to leave a blank, speckled over 
with unmeaning dots of rock, gathered from previous maps — for I 
had consulted them all without meeting an intelligible representa- 
tion of it. From the surface of the Miage glacier I had gained 
nothing, for I could only see the feet of magnificent ice-streams, 
but no more ; but now, from the top of the dead wall of rock 
which had so long closed my view, I saw those fine glaciers from 
top to bottom, pouring down their streams, nearly as large as the 
Bossons, from Mont Blanc, from the Bosse, and from the Dome. 

The head of Mont Blanc is supported on this side by two but- 
tresses, between which vast glaciers descend. Of these the most 
southern* takes its rise at the foot of the precipices which fall 
steeply down from the Calotte,"!* and its stream, as it joins that of 
the Miage, is cut in two by an enormous vognon of rock. Next, to 
the left, comes the largest of the buttresses of which I have spoken, 
almost forming an aiguille in itself. The next glacier | descends 
from a large basin which receives the snows of the summit-ridge 
between the Bosse and the Dome, and it is divided from the third 
and last glacier § by another buttress, which joins the summit-ridge 
at a point between the Dome and the Aig. de Bionnassay.] 

* This glacier is named on the map Glacier du Mont Blanc. 

t The Calotte is the name given to the dome of snow at the summit of Mont 
Blanc. % Glacier du Dome. § This is without a name. 


The great buttresses betwixt these magnificent ice-streams have 
supplied a large portion of the enormous masses of debris which 
are disposed in ridges round about, and are strewn over, the ter- 
mination of the Glacier de Miage in the Val Veni. These moraines* 
used to be classed amongst the wonders of the world. They are 
very large for a glacier of the size of the Miage. 

The dimensions of moraines are not ruled by those of glaciers. 
Many small glaciers have large moraines,*)" and many large ones 
have small moraines. The size of the moraines of any glacier 
depends mainly upon the area of rock surface that is exposed to 
atmospheric influences within the basin drained by the glacier ; 
upon the nature of such rock, — whether it is friable or resistant ; 
and upon the dip of strata. Moraines most likely will be small if 
little rock surface is exposed ; but when large ones are seen, then, 
in all probability, large areas of rock, uncovered by snow or ice, 
will be found in immediate contiguity to the glacier. The Miage 
glacier has large ones, because it receives detritus from many great 
cliffs and ridges. But if this glacier, instead of lying, as it does, at 
the bottom of a trough, were to fill that trough, if it were to com- 
pletely envelope the Aiguille de Trelatete, and the other moun- 
tains which border it, and were to descend from Mont Blanc 
unbroken by rock or ridge, it would be as destitute of morainic 
matter as the great Mer cle Glace of Greenland. For if a country or 
district is completely covered up by glacier, the moraines may be of 
the very smallest dimensions.^ 

The contributions that are supplied to moraines by glaciers 
themselves, from the abrasion of the rocks over which their ice 

* I do not know the origin of the term moraine. De Saussure says (vol. i. p. 380, 
§ 536), "the peasants of Ohamoimix eall these heaps of debris the moraine of the 
glacier." It maybe inferred from this that the term was a local one, peculiar to 

t An example is referred to on p. 161. Much more remarkable cases might be 

X It is not usual to find small moraines to large glaciers fed by many branches 
draining many different basins. That is, if the branches are draining basins which 


passes, are minute compared with, the accumulations which are 
furnished from other sources. These great rubbish-heaps are 
formed, one may say almost entirely, from debris which falls, 
or is washed down the flanks of mountains, or from cliffs bor- 
dering glaciers ; and are composed, to a very limited extent 
only, of matter that is ground, rasped, or filed off by the friction 
of the ice. 

If the contrary view were to be adopted, if it could be main- 
tained that " glaciers, by their motion, break off masses of rock from 
the sides and bottoms of their valley courses, and crowd along every 
thing that is movable, so as to form large accumulations of debris 
in front, and along their sides," * the conclusion could not be resisted, 
the greater the glacier, the greater should be the moraine. 

This doctrine does not find much, favour with those who have 
personal knowledge of what glaciers do at the present time. From 
De Saussuref downwards it has been pointed out, time after time, 
that moraines are chiefly formed from debris coming from rocks or 
soil above the ice, not from the bed over which it passes. But 
amongst the writings of modern speculators upon glaciers and 
glacier-action in bygone times, it is not uncommon to find the 
notions entertained, that moraines represent the amount of excava- 
tion (such is the term employed) performed by glaciers, or at least 
are comprised of matter which has been excavated by glaciers ; 
that vast moraines have necessarily been produced by vast glaciers ; 
and that a great extension of glaciers — a glacial period — necessarily 
causes the production of vast moraines. It is needless to cite more 

are separated by mountain ridges, or which, at least, have islands of rock protruding 
through the ice. The small moraines contributed by one affluent are balanced, pro- 
bably, by great ones brought by another feeder. 

Atlas of Physical Geography, by Augustus Petermann and the Rev. T. Milner. 
The italics are not in the original. 

+ "'The stones that are found upon the upper extremities of glaciers are of the 
same nature as the mountains which rise above ; but, as the ice carries them down 
into the valleys, they arrive between rocks of a totally different nature from their 
own."— De Saussure, § 536. 


than one or two examples to show that such generalisations cannot 
be sustained. Innumerable illustrations might be quoted. 

In the chain of Mont Blanc one may compare the moraines of 
the Miage with those of the Glacier d'Argentiere. The latter glacier 
drains a basin equal to or exceeding that of the former ; but its 
moraines are small compared with those of the former. More 
notable still is the disparity of the moraines of the Gorner glacier 
(that which receives so many branches from the neighbourhood of 
Monte Eosa*), and of the Z'Muttgletscher. The area drained by 
the Gorner greatly exceeds the basin of the Z'Mutt, yet the moraines 
of the Z'Mutt are incomparably larger than those of the Gorner. 
No one is likely to say that the Z'Mutt and Miage glaciers have 
existed for a far greater length of time than the other pair ; an 
explanation must be sought amongst the causes to which reference 
has been made. 

More striking still is it to see the great interior Mcr de Glace 
of Greenland almost without moraines. This vast ice-plateau, 
although smaller than it was in former times, is still so extensive 
that the whole of the glaciers of the Alps might be merged into it 
without its bulk being perceptibly increased. If the size of moraines 
bore any sort of relation to the size of glaciers, the moraines of 
Greenland should be far greater than those of the Alps. 

This interior ice-reservoir of Greenland, enormous as it is, must 
be considered as but the remnant of a mass which was incalculably 
greater, and which is unparalleled at the present time outside the 
Antarctic Circle. With the exception of localities where the rocks 
are easy of disintegration, and the traces of glacier-action have been 
to a great extent destroyed, the whole country bears the marks of 
the grinding and polishing of ice ; and, judging by the flatness of 
the curves of the roches moutonnees, and by the perfection of the 
polish which still remains upon the rocks after the}' have sustained 

; The Unter Theodul, Klein Mattcrhorn, Breithorn, Schwarze, Zwiilinge, Grenz, 
and Monte Rosa glaciers, are all feeders of the Gorner. The Z'Mutt receives the 
Tiefenmatten, Stock, and Schonbiihl glaciers only. 


(through many centuries) extreme variations of temperature, the 
period during which such effects were produced must have widely 
exceeded in duration the ' glacial period' of Europe. If moraines 
were built from matter excavated by glaciers, the moraines of Green- 
land should be the greatest in the world ! 

The absence of moraines upon and at the termination of this 
great Mer de Glace is due to the want of rocks rising above the ice.* 
On two occasions, in 1867, I saw, at a glance, at least 600 square 
miles of it, from the summits of small mountains on its outskirts. 
Not a single peak or ridge was to be seen rising above, nor a single 
rock reposing upon the ice. The country was completely covered 
up by glacier ; all was ice, as far as the eye could see."f" 

There is evidence, then, that considerable areas of exposed 
rock surface are essential to the production of large moraines, and 
that glacial periods do not necessarily produce vast moraines. That 
moraines are not built up of matter which is excavated by glaciers, 
but simply illustrate the powers of glaciers for transportation and 
arrangement. \ 

* I refer to those portions of it which I have seen in the neighbourhood of Disco 
Bay. There are moraines in this district, but they were formed when the great Mer 
de Glace stretched nearer to the sea, — when it sent arms down through the valleys in 
the belt of land which now intervenes between sea and glacier. 

t The interior of Greenland appears to be absolutely covered by glacier between 
68° 30' — 70° N. Lat. Others speak of peaks peeping through the ice to the N. and 
S. of this district ; but I suspect that these peaks are upon the outskirts of the great 
Mer de Glace. 

X The striations which are found upon rocks over which glaciers have worked, are 
universally held by the ablest writers to be caused by foreign matter held in the grip 
of the ice, or rolling between it and the rock -bed (§ 9, p. 146). If the principal 
source of the tools which make these marks is cut off, the marks should, of course, 
be less numerous. 

The rarity of striations in the neighbourhood of the great Mer de Glace of Green- 
land was very noticeable. There was perfection of glaciation ; but, over large areas, 
striations, flutings, and groovings were entirely wanting. "Weathering, subsequently 
to the retreat of the ice, had not taken place, to any perceptible extent, in the locali- 
ties to which I refer. 

Striations, groovings, and flutings, are seen on the outskirt land ; but they are 
less common in Greenland than in the Alps. 


We descended in our track to the Lac de Conibal,* and from 
thence went over the Col de la Seigne to les Motets, where we 
slept ; on July 13, crossed the Col du Mont Tondu to Contamines 
(in a sharp thunderstorm), and the Col de Yoza to Chamounix. 
Two days only remained for excursions in this neighbourhood, and 
we resolved to employ them in another attempt to ascend the 
Aiguille d'Argentiere, upon which mountain we had been cruelly 
defeated just eight days before. 

It happened in this way. — Eeilly had a notion that the ascent 
of the Aiguille could be accomplished by following the ridge lead- 
ing to its summit from the Col du Chardonnet. At half-past six, on 
the morning of the 6th, we found ourselves accordingly on the top 
of that pass."(" The party consisted of our friend Moore and his guide 
Aimer, Eeilly and his guide Francois Couttet, myself and Michel 
Croz. So far the weather had been calm, and the way easy ; but 
immediately we arrived on the summit of the pass, we got into a 
furious wind. Five minutes earlier we were warm, — now we were 
frozen. Fine snow, whirled up into the air, penetrated every crack 
in our harness, and assailed our skins as painfully as if it had 
been red hot instead of freezing cold. The teeth chattered invo- 
luntarily — talking was laborious ; the breath froze instantaneously ; 
eating was disagreeable ; sitting was impossible ! 

* The ascent of the Aiguille de Trelatete from our camp on Mont Sue (2| hours 
above the Lac de Combal) and its descent to les Motets, occupied 9| hours. 
After quitting the lake, the route led up the largest of the ravines on the S. E. 
side of Mont Sue, and then along the top of the gently-inclined snow-ridge 
which was at the summit of that buttress of the Trelatete. It then descended on to 
a branch of the Glacier d'Allee Blanche, through a gap in one of the minor ridges of 
Mont Sue. The course was then straight up this glacier (a little W. of N. ), until 
the ridge was struck that descends from the summit of the Trelatete in the direction 
of Mont Blanc. This was followed, and the highest (central) peak (12,900 feet) was 
arrived at by passing over the peak No. 3 (12,782). It is possible to descend from 
the highest point of this mountain on to the Glacier de Trelatete. I wished to adopt 
this course in 1864, but was outvoted. 

Mont Sue is a famous locality for crystals. We discovered several sparkling, fairy 
caves, encrusted with magnificent specimens, smoky and clear; but, as usual, the 
best were injured before they could be detached. 

t The Col du Chardonnet is about 11,000 or 11,100 feet above the level of the sea. 


We looked towards our mountain. Its aspect was not encou- 
raging. The ridge that led upwards had a spiked arete, palisaded 
with miniature aiguilles, banked up at their bases by heavy snow- 
beds, which led down, at considerable angles, on one side towards the 
Glacier de Saleinoz, on the other towards the Glacier du Chardonnet. 
Under any circumstances, it would have been a stiff piece of work 
to clamber up that way. Prudence and comfort counselled, " Give 
it up." Discretion overruled valour. Moore and Aimer crossed 
the Col du Chardonnet to go to Orsieres, and we others returned 
towards Chamounix. 

But when we got some distance down, the evil spirit which 
prompts men to ascend mountains tempted us to stop, and to look 
back at the Aiguille d'Argentiere. The sky was cloudless ; no 
wind could be felt, nor sign of it perceived ; it was only eight 
o'clock in the morning ; and there, right before us, we saw an- 
other branch of the glacier leading high up into the mountain — 
far above the Col du Chardonnet — and a little couloir rising from 
its head almost to the top of the peak. This was clearly the right 
route to take. We turned back, and went at it. 

The glacier was steep, and the snow gully rising out of it was 
steeper. Seven hundred steps were cut. Then the couloir became 
too steep. We took to the rocks on its left, and at last gained the 
ridge, at a point about 1500 feet above the Col. We faced about 
to the right, and went along the ridge ; keeping on some snow a 
little below its crest, on the Saleinoz side. Then we got the wind 
again ; but no one thought of turning, for we were within 250 feet 
of the summit. 

The axes of Croz and Couttet went to work once more, for the 
slope was about as steep as snow could be. Its surface was 
covered with a loose, granular crust ; dry and utterly incoherent ; 
which slipped away in streaks directly it was meddled with. The 
men had to cut through this into the old beds underneath, and to 
pause incessantly to rake away the powdery stuff, which poured 
down in hissing streams over the hard substratum. Ugh ! how 

2 K 


cold it was ! How the wind blew ! Couttet's hat was torn from 
its fastenings, and went on a tour in Switzerland. The flour-like 
snow, swept off the ridge above, was tossed spirally upwards, eddy- 
ing in tourmcntes ; then, dropt in lulls, or caught by other gusts, 
was flung far and wide to feed the Saleinoz. 

" My feet are getting suspiciously numbed," cried Eeilly : " how 
about frost-bites?" "Kick hard, sir," shouted the men; "it's the 
only way." Their fingers were kept alive by their work ; but it 
was cold for the feet, and they kicked and hewed simultaneously. 
I followed their example, but was too violent, and made a hole 
clean through my footing. A clatter followed as if crockery had 
been thrown down a well. 

I went down a step or two, and discovered in a second that all 
were standing over a cavern (not a crevasse, speaking properly) 
that was bridged over by a thin vault of ice, from which great 
icicles hung in groves. Almost in the same minute Eeilly pushed 
one of his hands right through the roof. The whole party might 
have tumbled through at any moment. " Go ahead, Croz, we are- 
over a chasm !" "We know it," he answered, "and we can't find 
a firm place." 

In the blandest manner, my comrade inquired if to persevere 
would not be to do that which is called " tempting Providence." 
My reply being in the affirmative, he further observed, " Suppose 
we go down ?" " Very willingly." " Ask the guides." They had 
not the least objection ; so we went down, and slept that night at 
the Montanvert. 

Off the ridge we were out of the wind. In fact, a hundred feet 
down to windward, on the slope fronting the Glacier du Chardonnet, 
we were broiling hot ; there was not a suspicion of a breeze. Upon 
that side there was nothing to tell that a hurricane was raging a 
hundred feet higher, — the cloudless sky looked tranquillity itself : 
whilst to leeward the only sign of a disturbed atmosphere was the 
friskiness of the snow upon the crests of the ridges. 

We set out on the 14th, with Croz, Payot, and Charlet, to finish 

chap. xi. MR. EEILLY'S MAP OF MONT BLANC. 251 

off the work which had been cut short so abruptly, and slept, as 
before, at the Chalets de Lognan. On the 15th, about midday, we 
arrived upon the summit of the aiguille, and found that we had 
actually been within one hundred feet of it when we turned back 
upon the first attempt. 

It was a triumph to Eeilly. In this neighbourhood he had 
performed the feat (in 1863) of joining together " two mountains, 
each about 13,000 feet high, standing on the map about a mile and 
a half apart." Long before we made the ascent he had procured evi- 
dence which could not be impugned, that the Pointe des Plines, a 
fictitious summit which had figured on other maps as a distinct moun- 
tain, could be no other than the Aiguille d'Argentiere, and he had 
accordingly obliterated it from the preliminary draft of his map. We 
saw that it was right to do so. The Pointe des Plines did not exist. 
We had ocular demonstration of the accuracy of his previous 

I do not know which to admire most, the fidelity of Mr. Eeilly's 
map, or the indefatigable industry by which the materials were ac- 
cumulated from which it was constructed. To men who are sound 
in limb it may be amusing to arrive on a summit (as we did upon 
the top of Mont Dolent), sitting astride a ridge too narrow to stand 
upon ; or to do battle with a ferocious wind (as we did on the top of 
the Aiguille de Trelat^te) ; or to feel half-frozen in midsummer (as 
we did on the Aiguille d'Argentiere). But there is extremely little 
amusement in making sketches and notes under such conditions. 
Yet upon all these expeditions, under the most adverse circum- 
stances, and in the most trying situations, Mr. Eeilly's brain and 
fingers were always at work. Throughout all he was ever alike ; 
the same genial, equable-tempered companion, whether victorious 
or whether defeated ; always ready to sacrifice his own desires to 
suit our comfort and convenience. By a happy union of audacity 
and prudence, combined with untiring perseverance, he eventually 
completed his self-imposed task — a work which would have been 


intolerable except as a labour of love — and which, for a single 
individual, may well-nigh be termed Herculean. 

We separated upon the level part of the Glacier d'Argentiere, 
Eeilly going with Payot and Charlet via the chalets of Lognan and 
de la Pendant, whilst I, with Croz, followed the right bank of the 
glacier to the village of Argentiere * At 7 p.m. we entered the 
humble inn, and ten minutes afterwards heard the echoes of the 
cannon which were fired upon the arrival of our comrades at 

* One cannot do worse than follow that path. 

f The lower chalet de Lognan is 2^ hours' walking from Chamounix. From 
thence to the summit of the Aiguille d'Argentiere, and down to the village of the 
same name, occupied 12^ hours. 



' ' A daring leader is a dangerous tiling. ' ' 


On July 10, Croz and I went to Sierra, in the Valais, via the Col 
de Balme, the Col de la Forclaz, and Martigny. The Swiss side of 
the Forclaz is not creditable to Switzerland. The path from Mar- 
tigny to the summit has undergone successive improvements in 
these latter years ; but mendicants permanently disfigure it. 

We passed many tired pedestrians toiling up this oven, perse- 
cuted by trains of parasitic children. These children swarm there 
like maggots in a rotten cheese. They carry baskets of fruit with 
which to plague the weary tourist. They flit around him like 
flies ; they thrust the fruit in his face ; they pester him with their 
pertinacity. Beware of them ! — taste, touch not their fruit. In 
the eyes of these children, each peach, each grape, is worth a 
prince's ransom. It is to no purpose to be angry ; it is like flap- 
ping wasps — they only buzz the more. Whatever you do, or what- 
ever you say, the end will be the same. " Give me something," 
is the alpha and omega of all their addresses. They learn the 
phrase, it is said, before they are taught the alphabet. It is in all 
their mouths. From the tiny toddler up to the maiden of sixteen, 
there is nothing heard but one universal chorus of — " Give me 
something ; will you have the goodness to give me something?" 

From Sierra we went up the Val d'Anniviers to Zinal, to join 
our former companions, Moore and Aimer. Moore was ambi- 
tious to discover a shorter way from Zinal to Zermatt than the two 


passes which were known * He had shown to me, upon Dufour's 
map, that a direct line, connecting the two places, passed exactly 
over the depression between the Zinal-Eothhorn and the Schall- 
horn. He was confident that a passage could be effected over this 
depression, and was sanguine that it would (in consequence of its 
directness) prove to be a quicker route than the circuitous ones 
over the Triftjoch and the Col Durand. 

He was awaiting us, and we immediately proceeded up the 
valley, and across the foot of the Zinal glacier to the Arpitetta Alp, 
where a chalet was supposed to exist in which we might pass the 
night. We found it at length, - ) - but it was not equal to our expect- 
ations. It was not one of those fine timbered chalets, with huge 
overhanging eaves, covered with pious sentences carved in unin- 
telligible characters. It was a hovel, growing, as it were, out of 
the hill-side ; roofed with rough slabs of slaty stone ; without a door 
or window ; surrounded by quagmires of ordure, and dirt of every 

A foul native invited us to enter. The interior was dark ; but, 
when our eyes became accustomed to the gloom, we saw that our 
palace was in plan about 15 by 20 feet ; on one side it was 
scarcely five feet high, but on the other was nearly seven. On this 
side there was a raised platform, about six feet wide, littered with 
dirty straw and still dirtier sheepskins. This was the bedroom. 
The remainder of the width of the apartment was the parlour. The 
rest was the factory. Cheese was the article which was being 
fabricated, and the foul native was engaged in its manufacture. 
He was garnished behind with a regular cowherd's one-legged stool, 
which gave him a queer, uncanny look when it was elevated in 
the air as he bent over into his tub ; for the making of his cheese 
required him to blow into a tub for ten minutes at a time. He 

* The Col cle Zinal or Triftjoch, between the Trifthorn and the Ober Gabelhorn ; 
and the Col Durand between the last-mentioned mountain and the Dent Blanche. 
For our route from Zinal to Zcrinatt, sec the map of the valley of Zermatt. 
t High above the Glacier de Morning at the foot of the Crete dc Milton. 


then squatted on his stool to gain breath, and took a few whiffs at 
a short pipe ; after which he blew away more vigorously than 
before. We were told that this procedure was necessary. It 
appeared to us to be nasty. It accounts, perhaps, for the flavour 
possessed by certain Swiss cheeses. 

Big, black, and leaden-coloured clouds rolled up from Zinal, 
and met in combat on the Morning glacier with others which 
descended from the Eothhorn. Down came the rain in torrents, 
and crash went the thunder. The herd-boys hurried under shelter, 
for the frightened cattle needed no driving, and tore spontaneously 
down the Alp as if running a steeple-chase. Men, cows, pigs, 
sheep, and goats forgot their mutual animosities, and rushed to 
the only refuge on the mountain. The spell was broken which 
had bound the elements for some weeks past, and the cirque 
from the Weisshorn to Lo Besso was the theatre in which they 
spent their fury. 

A sullen morning succeeded an angry night. We were 
undecided in our council whether to advance or to return down 
the valley. Good seemed likely to overpower bad ; so, at 5.40, we 
left the chalet en route for our pass [amidst the most encouraging 
assurances from all the people on the Alp that we need not distress 
ourselves about the weather, as it was not possible to get to the 
point at which we were aiming]. * 

Our course led us at first over ordinary mountain slopes, and 
then over a flat expanse of glacier. Before this was quitted, it 
was needful to determine the exact line which was to be taken. 
We were divided betwixt two opinions. I advocated that a 
course should be steered due south, and that the upper plateau of 
the Morning glacier should be attained by making a great detour 
to our right. This was negatived without a division. Aimer 
declared in favour of making for some rocks to the south-west of 
the Schallhorn, and attaining the upper plateau of the glacier by 
mounting them. Croz advised a middle course, up some very 

* Moore's Journal. 


steep and broken glacier. Croz's route seemed likely to turn out 
to be impracticable, because much step-cutting would be required 
upon it. Aimer's rocks did not look good ; they were, possibly, 
unassailable. I thought both routes were bad, and declined to 
vote for either of them. Moore hesitated, Aimer gave way, and 
Croz's route was adopted. 

He did not go very far, however, before he found that he had 
undertaken too much, and after [glancing occasionally round at us, 
to see what we thought about it, suggested that it might, after all, 
be wiser to take to the rocks of the Schallhorn]. That is to say, 
he suggested the abandonment of his own and the adoption of 
Aimer's route. No one opposed the change of plan, and, in the 
absence of instructions to the contrary, he proceeded to cut steps 
across an ice-slope towards the rocks. 

Let the reader now cast his eye upon the map of the valley of 
Zermatt, and he will see that when we quitted the slopes of the 
Arpitetta Alp, we took a south-easterly course over the Morning 
glacier. We halted to settle the plan of attack shortly after we 
got upon the ice. The rocks of the Schallhorn, whose ascent 
Aimer recommended, were then to our south-east. Croz's proposed 
route was to the south-west of the rocks, and led up the southern 
side of a very steep and broken glacier * The part he intended to 
traverse was, in a sense, undoubtedly practicable. He gave it up 
because it would have involved too much step-cutting. But the 
part of this glacier which intervened between his route and 
Aimer's rocks was, in the most complete sense of the word, 
impracticable. It passed over a continuation of the rocks, and 
was broken in half by them. The upper portion was separated 
from the lower portion by a long slope of ice that had been built 
up from the debris of the glacier which had fallen from above. 
The foot of this slope was surrounded by immense quantities of the 
larger avalanche blocks. These we cautiously skirted, and when 
Croz halted they had been left far below, and we were half-way up 
* Through what is technically called an "ice-fall." 

chap. xii. A PERILOUS PATH. 257 

the side of the great slope which led to the base of the ice-wall 

Across this ice-slope Croz now proceeded to cut. It was 
executing a flank movement in the face of an enemy by whom we 
might be attacked at any moment. The peril was obvious. It was 
a monstrous folly. It was foolhardiness. A retreat should have 
been sounded/" 

" I am not ashamed to confess/' wrote Moore in his Journal, 
" that during the whole time we were crossing this slope my heart 
was in my mouth, and I never felt relieved from such a load of 
care as when, after, I suppose, a passage of about twenty minutes, 
we got on to the rocks and were in safety. ... I have never 
heard a positive oath come from Aimer's mouth, but the language 
in which he kept up a running commentary, more to himself than 
to me, as we went along, was stronger than I should have given 
him credit for using. His prominent feeling seemed to be one of 
indignation that we should be in such a position, and self-reproach 
at being a party to the proceeding ; while the emphatic way in 
which, at intervals, he exclaimed, ' Quick ; be quick,' sufficiently 
betokened his alarm." 

It was not necessary to admonish Croz to be quick. He was 
fully as alive to the risk as any of the others. He told me after- 
wards, that this place was not only the most dangerous he had 
ever crossed, but that no consideration whatever would tempt him 
to cross it again. Manfully did he exert himself to escape from 
the impending destruction. His head, bent down to his work, 
never turned to the right or to the left. One, two, three, went his 
axe, and then he stepped on to the spot where he had been cutting. 
How painfully insecure should we have considered those steps at 
any other time ! But now, we thought of nothing but the rocks in 
front, and of the hideous semes, lurching over above us, ajDparently 
in the act of falling. 

* The responsibility did not rest with Croz. His part was to advise, but not to 

2 L 




We got to tlie rocks in safety, and if they had been doubly as 
difficult as they were, we should still have been well content. We 
sat down and refreshed the inner man ; keeping our eyes on the 
towering pinnacles of ice under which we had passed ; but which, 

now, were almost beneath 
us. Without a preliminary 
warning sound, one of the 
largest — as high as the 
Monument at London 
Bridge — fell upon the slope 
below. The stately mass 
heeled over as if upon a 
hinge (holding together 
until it bent thirty degrees 
forwards), then it crushed 
out its base, and, rent into 
a thousand fragments, 
plunged vertically clown 
upon the slope that w 7 e 
had crossed ! Every atom 


of our track, that was in its course, was obliterated ; all the tiew 
snow was swept away, and a broad sheet of smooth, glassy ice 
showed the resistless force with which it had fallen. 

It was inexcusable to follow such a perilous path, but it is easy 



to understand why it was taken. To have retreated from the place 
where Croz suggested a change of plan, to have descended below 
the reach of danger, and to have mounted again by the route which 
Aimer suggested, would have been equivalent to abandoning the 
excursion ; for no one would have passed another night in the 
chalet on the Arpitetta Alp. " Many," says Thucydides, " though 
seeing well the perils ahead, are forced along by fear of dishonour 
— as the world calls it — so that, vanquished by a mere word, they 
fall into irremediable calamities." Such was nearly the case here. 
No one could say a word in justification of the course which was 
adopted ; all were alive to the danger that was being encountered ; 
yet a grave risk was deliberately — although unwillingly — incurred, 
in preference to admitting, by withdrawal from an untenable posi- 
tion, that an error of judgment had been committed. 

After a laborious trudge over many species of snow, and through 
many varieties of vapour — from the quality of a Scotch mist to that 
of a London fog — we at length stood on the depression between the 
Eothhorn and the Schallhorn * A steep wall of snow was upon 
the Zinal side of the summit ; but what the descent was like on 
the other side we could not tell, for a billow of snow tossed over 
its crest by the western winds, suspended o'er Zermatt with motion 
arrested, resembling an ocean-wave frozen in the act of breaking, 
cut off the view.i* 

Croz — held hard in by the others, who kept down the Zinal 
side — opened his shoulders, flogged down the foam, and cut away 
the cornice to its junction with the summit ; then boldly leaped 
down, and called on us to follow him. 

The summit of the pass has been marked on Dufour's map 3793 metres, or 
12,444 feet. 

t These snow-cornices are common on the crests of high mountain ridges, and 
it is always prudent (just before arriving upon the summit of a mountain or ridge) 
to sound with the alpenstock, that is to say, drive it in, to discover whether there is 
one or not. Men have often narrowly escaped losing their lives from neglecting this 

These cornices are frequently rolled round in a volute, and sometimes take most 
extravagant forms. See page 34. 


It was well for us now that we had such a man as leader. An 
inferior, or less daring guide, would have hesitated to enter upon the 
descent in a dense mist ; and Croz himself would have done right 
to pause had he been less magnificent in pJiysiqice. He acted, 
rather than said, " Where snow lies fast, there man can go ; where 
ice exists, a way may he cut ; it is a question of power ; I have 
the power, — all you have to do is to follow me." Truly, he did not 
spare himself, and could he have performed the feats upon the 
boards of a theatre that he did upon this occasion, he would have 
brought down the house with thunders of applause. Here is what 
Moore wrote in his Journal. 

[The descent bore a strong resemblance to the Col de Pilatte, 
but was very much steeper and altogether more difficult, which is 
saying a good deal. Croz was in his element, and selected his way 
with marvellous sagacity, while Aimer had an equally honourable 
and, perhaps, more responsible post in the rear, which he kept with 
his usual steadiness. . . . One particular passage has impressed 
itself on my mind as one of the most nervous I have ever made. 
We had to pass along a crest of ice, a mere knife-edge, — on our 
left a broad crevasse, whose bottom was lost in blue haze, and on 
our right, at an angle of 70°, or more, a slope falling to a similar 
gulf below. Croz, as he went along the edge, chipped small 
notches in the ice, in which we placed our feet, with the toes well 
turned out, doing all we knew to preserve our balance. While 
stepping from one of these precarious footholds to another, I 
staggered for a moment. I had not really lost my footing ; but 
the agonised tone in which Aimer, who was behind me, on seeing 
me waver, exclaimed, " Slip not, sir ! " gave us an even livelier 
impression than we already had of the insecurity of the position. 
. . . One huge chasm, whose upper edge was far above the lower 
one, could neither be leaped nor turned, and threatened to prove 
an insuperable barrier. But Croz showed himself equal to the 
emergency. Held up by the rest of the party, he cut a series of 
holes for the hands and feet, down and along the almost perpen- 

chap. xit. THE CLUB -ROOM OF ZERMATT. 261 

dicular wall of ice forming the upper side of the schrund. Down 
this slippery staircase we crept, with our faces to the wall, until a 
point was reached where the width of the chasm was not too great 
for us to drop across. Before we had clone, we got quite accus- 
tomed to taking flying leaps over the sclirunds. ... To make a 
long story short ; after a most desperate and exciting struggle, and 
as bad a piece of ice-work as it is possible to imagine, we emerged 
on to the upper plateau of the Hohlicht glacier.] 

The glimpses which had been caught of the lower part of the 
Hohlicht glacier were discouraging, so it was now determined to 
cross over the ridge between it and the Bothhorn glacier. This 
was not done without great trouble. Again we rose to a height 
exceeding 12,000 feet. Eventually we took to the track of the 
despised Triftjoch, and descended by the well-known, but rough, 
path which leads to that pass ; arriving at the Monte Eosa hotel 
at Zermatt at 7.20 p.m. We occupied nearly twelve hours of actual 
walking in coming from the chalet on the Arpitetta Alp (which was 
2 J hours above Zinal), and we consequently found that the Mo- 
rning pass was not the shortest route from Zinal to Zermatt, although 
it was the most direct. 

Two dozen guides — good, bad, and indifferent ; French, Swiss, 
and Italian — can commonly be seen sitting on the wall on the front 
of the Monte Eosa hotel : waiting on their employers, and looking- 
for employers ; watching new arrivals, and speculating on the 
number of francs which may be extracted from their pockets. The 
Messieurs — sometimes strangely and wonderfully dressed — stand 
about in groups, or lean back in chairs, or lounge on the benches 
which are placed by the door. They wear extraordinary boots, and 
still more remarkable head-dresses. Their peeled, blistered, and 
swollen faces are worth studying. Some, by the exercise of watch- 
fulness and unremitting care, have been fortunate enough to acquire 
a fine raw sienna complexion. But most of them have not been so 
happy. They have been scorched on rocks, and roasted on glaciers. 
Their cheeks — first puffed, then cracked — have exuded a turpentine- 


like matter, which has coursed down their faces, and has dried in 
patches like the resin on the trunks of pines. They have removed 
it, and at the same time have pulled off large flakes of their skin. 
They have gone from bad to worse — their case has become hope- 
less — knives and scissors have been called into play ; tenderly, and 
daintily, they have endeavoured to reduce their cheeks to one, 
uniform hue. It is not to be done. But they have gone on, 
fascinated, and at last have brought their unhappy countenances to 
a state of helpless and complete ruin. Their lips are cracked ; 
their cheeks are swollen ; their eyes are blood-shot ; their noses are 
peeled and indescribable. 

Such are the pleasures of the mountaineer ! Scornfully and 
derisively the last comer compares the sight with his own flaccid 
face and dainty hands ; unconscious that he too, perhaps, will be 
numbered with those whom he now ridicules. 

There is a frankness of manner about these strangely-apparelled 
and queer-faced men, which does not remind one of drawing-room, 
or city life ; and it is good to see — in this club-room of Zermatt — 
those cold bodies, our too-frigid countrymen, regele together when 
brought into contact ; and it is pleasant to witness the hearty 
welcome given to the new-comers by the host and his excellent 

I left this agreeable society to seek letters at the post. They 
yielded disastrous intelligence. My holiday was brought to an 
abrupt termination, and I awaited the arrival of Eeilly (who was 
convoying the stores for the attack on the Matterhorn) only to in- 
form him that our arrangements were upset ; then travelled home, 
day and night, as fast as express trains would carry me. 

* This opportunity has been taken to introduce to the reader some of the most 
expert amateur mountaineers of the time ; and a few of the guides who have been, or 
will be, mentioned in the course of the book. 

Peter Perm is on the extreme right. Then come young Peter Taugvvalder (upon 
the bench) ; and J. J. Maquignaz (leaning against the door-post). Franz Ander- 
matten occupies the steps, and Ulrich Lauener towers in the background. 


I 1 ! 



"Ye crags and peaks, I'm with you once again ! 

Methinks I hear 
A spirit in your echoes answer me, 
And bid your tenant welcome to his home 
Again !" 

S. Knowles. 

Our career in 1864 had been one of unbroken success, but the 
great ascent upon which I had set my heart was not attempted, 

and, until it was accomplished, I was unsatisfied. Other things, 
too, influenced me to visit the Alps once more. I wished to travel 
elsewhere, in places where the responsibility of direction would 
rest with myself alone. It was well to know how far my judgment 
in the choice of routes could be relied upon. 

The journey of 1865 was chiefly undertaken, then, to find out 
to what extent I was capable to select paths over mountainous 
country. The programme which was drawn up for this journey 
was rather ambitious, since it included almost all of the great 
peaks which had not then been ascended ; but it was neither 
lightly undertaken nor hastily executed. All pains were taken to 
secure success. Information was sought from those who could 
give it, and the defeats of others were studied, that their errors 
might be avoided. The results which followed came not so much, 
perhaps, from luck, as from forethought and careful calculation. 

For success does not, as a rule, come by chance, and when one 
fails there is a reason for it. But when any notable, or so-called 
brilliant thing is done, we are too apt to look upon the success 


alone, without considering how it was accomplished. Whilst, when 
men fail, we inquire why they have not succeeded. So failures 
are oftentimes more instructive than successes, and the disappoint- 
ments of some become profitable to others. 

Up to a certain point, the programme was completely and 
happily carried out. Nothing but success attended our efforts so 
long as the excursions were executed as they had been planned. 
Most of them were made upon the very days which had been 
fixed for them months beforehand ; and all were accomplished, 
comparatively speaking, so easily, that their descriptions must be, 
in the absence of difficulty and danger, less interesting to the 
general reader than they would have been if our course had been 
marked by blunders and want of judgment. Before proceeding to 
speak of these excursions, it will not be entirely useless to explain 
the reasons which influenced the selection of the routes which were 
adopted upon them. 

In the course of the past five seasons my early practices were 
revolutionised. My antipathy to snow was overcome, and my pre- 
dilection for rocks was modified. Like all those who are not 
mountaineers born, I was, at the first, extremely nervous upon 
steep snow. The snow seemed bound to slip, and all those who 
were upon it to go along with it. Snow of a certain quality is 
undoubtedly liable to slip when it is at a certain inclination* The 
exact states which are dangerous, or safe, it is not possible to 
describe in writing. That is only learnt by experience, and con- 
fidence upon snow is not really felt until one has gained experience. 
Confidence gradually came to me, and as it came so did my par- 
tiality for rocks diminish. For it was evident, to use a common 
expression, that it paid better to travel upon snow than upon 
rocks. This applies to snow-beds pure and simple, or to snow 
which is lying over glacier ; and in the selection of routes it has, 
latterly, always been my practice to look for the places where snow 
slopes, or snow-covered glaciers, reach highest into mountains. - )* 

* See pp. 116, 170, and 249. f Sec p. 197. 

chap. xin. ON CHOICE OF ROUTES. 265 

It is comparatively seldom, however, that an ascent of a great 
mountain can be executed exclusively upon snow and glacier. 
Eidges peep through which have to be surmounted. In my earlier 
scramblings I usually took to, or was taken upon, the summits (or 
aretes) of the ridges, and a good many mountaineers habitually 
take to them on principle, as the natural and proper way. Accord- 
ing to my experience, it is seldom well to do so when any other 
course is open. As I have already said, and presently shall repeat 
more particularly, the crests of all the main ridges of the great 
peaks of the Alps are shattered and cleft by frost ; and it not un- 
frequently happens that a notch in a ridge, which appears perfectly 
insignificant from a distance, is found to be an insuperable barrier 
to further progress ; and a great detour, or a long descent, has to 
be made to avoid the obstacle. When committed to an arete one 
is tied, almost always, to a particular course, from which it is diffi- 
cult to deviate. Much loss of time must result if any serious 
obstruction occurs ; and total defeat is not at all improbable. 

But it seldom happens that a great alpine peak is seen that is 
cut off abruptly, in all directions, from the snows and glaciers which 
surround it. In its gullies snow will cling, although its faces may be 
too steep for the formation of permanent snow-beds. The merits 
of these snow-gullies (or couloirs) have been already pointed out,* 
and it is hardly necessary to observe, after that which was just now 
said about snow, that ascents of snow-gullies (with proper pre- 
cautions) are very much to be preferred to ascents of rocky aretes. 

By following the glaciers, the snow-slopes above, and the 
couloirs rising out of them, it is usually possible to get very close 
to the summits of the great peaks in the Alps. The final climb will, 
perhaps, necessarily be by an arete. The less of it the better. 

It occasionally occurs that considerable mountain slopes, or 
faces, are destitute of snow-gullies. In that case it will, very 
likely, be best to adhere to the faces (or to the gullies or minor 
ridges upon them) rather than take to the great ridges. Upon a 

* See y>]>. 225-7. 
2 M 


face one can move to the right or to the left with more facility 
than upon the crest of a ridge ; and when a difficulty is arrived at, 
it is, consequently, less troublesome to circumvent. 

In selecting the routes which were taken in 1865, I looked, 
first, for places where glaciers and snow extended highest up into 
the mountains which were to be ascended, or the ridges which were 
to be crossed. Next, for gullies filled with snow leading still 
higher ; and finally, from the heads of the gullies we completed the 
ascents, whenever it was practicable, by faces instead of by aretes. 
The ascent of the Grand Cornier (13,022), of the Dent Blanche 
(14,318), Grandes Jorasses (13,700), Aiguille Yerte (13,540), Eui- 
nette (12,727), and the Matterhorn (14,780), were all accomplished 
in this way ; besides the other excursions which will be referred to 
by and by. The route selected, before the start was made, was in 
every case strictly followed out. 

We inspected all of these mountains from neighbouring heights 
before entering upon their ascents. I explained to the guides the 
routes I proposed to be taken, and (when the courses were at all 
complicated) sketched them out on paper to prevent misunder- 
standing. In some few cases they suggested variations, and in 
every case the route was well discussed. The execution of the work 
was done by the guides, and 1 seldom interfered with, or attempted 
to assist in it. 

The 13th of June 1865 I spent in the valley of Lauterbrunnen 
with the Eev. W. H. Hawker and the guides Christian and Ulrich 
Lauener ; and on the 14th crossed the Petersgrat with Christian 
Aimer and Johann Tannler to Turtman (Tourtemagne) in the 
Yalais. Tannler was then paid off, as Michel Croz and Franz 
Biener were awaiting me. 

It was not possible to find two leading guides who worked 
together more harmoniously than Croz and Aimer. Biener's part 
was subordinate to theirs, and he was added as a convenience rather 
than as a necessity. Croz spoke French alone ; Aimer little else 
than German. Biener spoke both languages, and was useful on 

chap. xitt. REGRETS. 267 

that account ; but he seldom went to the front, excepting during 
the early part of the day, when the work was easy, and he acted 
throughout more as a porter than as a guide. 

The importance of having a reserve of power on mountain 
expeditions cannot be too strongly insisted upon. We always had 
some in hand, and were never pressed, or overworked, so long as 
we were together. Come what might, we were ready for it. But 
by a series of chances, which I shall never cease to regret, I was 
first obliged to part with Croz, and then to dismiss the others ; * and 
so, deviating from the course that I had deliberately adoj)ted, 
which was successful in practice because it was sound in principle, 
became fortuitously a member of an expedition that ended with 
the catastrophe which brings this book, and brought my scrambles 
amongst the Alps, to a close.i" 

* See Chapter xx. 

+ I engaged Croz for 1865 before I parted from him in 1864 ; but upon writing to 
him in the month of April to fix the dates of his engagement, I found that he had 
supposed he was free (in consequence of not having heard from me earlier), and had 

engaged himself to a Mr. B from the 27th of June. I endeavoured to hold him 

to his promise, but he considered himself unable to withdraw from his later obliga- 
tion. His letters were honourable to him. The following extract from the last one 
he wrote to me is given as an interesting souvenir of a brave and upright man : — 

[ d ]/ JZ>6VC ^**~ff^*JLs ^y^^, x^t*2^X-/ ^2^****>r ^<^2-^**^A-=~ J^f^-ck-— 

Qu^ *JtU&/. 


On June 15 we went from Turtman to Z'meiden, and thence 
over the Forcletta pass to Zinal. We diverged from the summit of 
the pass up some neighbouring heights to inspect the Grand Cornier, 
and I decided to have nothing to do with its northern side. The 
mountain was more than seven miles away, but it was quite safe to 
pronounce it inaccessible from our direction. 

On the 16th we left Zinal at 2.5 a.m., having been for a moment 
greatly surprised by an entry in the hotel-book,* and ascending by 
the Zinal glacier, and giving the base of our mountain a wide berth 
in order that it might the better be examined, passed gradually 
right round to its south, before a way up it was seenf" At 8.30 
we arrived upon the plateau of the glacier that descends towards 
the east, between the Grand Cornier and the Dent Blanche, and 
from this place a route was readily traced. We steered to the 
north (as shown upon the map) over the glacier, towards the ridge 
that descends to the east ; gained it by mounting snow-slopes, and 
followed it to the summit, which was arrived at before half-past 
twelve. From first to last the route was almost entirely over 

The ridges leading to the north and to the south from the 
summit of the Grand Cornier, exhibited in a most striking manner 
the extraordinary effects that may be produced by violent alter- 
nations of heat and cold. The southern one was hacked and 
split into the wildest forms ; and the northern one was not less 
cleft and impracticable, and offered the droll piece of rock-carving 
wdiich is represented upon page 270. Some small blocks actually 

* It was an entry describing an ascent of the Grand Cornier (which we supposed 
had never been ascended) from the very direction which we had just pronounced to 
be hopeless ! It was especially startling, because Franz Biener was spoken of in it 
as having been concerned in the ascent. On examining Biener it was found that he 
had made the excursion, and had supposed at the time he was upon his summit that 
it was the Grand Cornier. He saw afterwards that they had only ascended one of 
the several points upon the ridge running northwards from the Grand Cornier — I 
believe, the Pigue de l'Allee (11,168 feet) ! 

+ For route, see the map of the Valley of Zermatt. 




tottered and fell before our eyes, and, starting others in their down- 
ward course, grew into a perfect avalanche, which descended with 
a solemn roar on to the glaciers beneath. 

It is natural that the great ridges should present the wildest 
forms — not on account of their dimensions, but by reason of their 


positions. They are exposed to the fiercest heat of the sun, and 
are seldom in shadow as long as it is above the horizon. They are 
entirely unprotected, and are attacked by the strongest blasts and 
by the most intense cold. The most durable rocks are not proof 
against such assaults. These grand, apparently solid — eternal — 
mountains, seeming so firm, so immutable, are yet ever changing 
and crumbling into dust. These shattered ridges are evidence of 
their sufferings. Let me repeat that every principal ridge of every 




great peak in the Alps amongst those I have seen has been shat- 
tered in this way ; and that every summit, amongst the rock- 
summits upon which I have stood, has been nothing but a piled-up 
heap of fragments. 

The minor ridges do not usually present such extraordinary 
forms as the principal ones. They are less exposed, and they are 

less broken up ; and it is reasonable to assume 
that their annual degradation is less than that 
of the summit-ridges. 

The wear and tear does not cease even in 
winter, for these great ridges are 
never completely covered up by 
snow,* and the sun has 
still power. The destruc- 
tion is incessant, and 
increases as time goes 
on ; for the greater the 
surfaces which are ex- 
posed to the practically 
inexhaustible powers of sun and frost, the greater ruin will be 

The rock-falls which are continually occurring upon all rock 

u llilf 


* I wrote in the Athenccum, August 29, 1863, to the same effect. "This action 
of the frost does not cease in winter, inasmuch as it is impossible for the Matterhorn 
to be entirely covered by snow. Less precipitous mountains maybe entirely covered 
up during winter, and if they do not then actually gain height, the wear and tear is, 
at least, suspended. . . . We arrive, therefore, at the conclusion that, although 
such snow-peaks as Mont Blanc may in the course of ages grow higher, the Matter- 
horn must decrease in height. " These remarks have received confirmation. 

The men who were left by M. Dollfus-Ausset in his observatory upon the summit 
of the Col Theodule, during the winter of 1865, remarked that the snow was partially 
melted upon the rocks in their vicinity upon 19th, 20th, 21st, 22d, 23d, 26th, 27th 
December of that year, and upon the 22d of December they entered in their Journal, 
"Nous axons vu au Matterhorn que la neige sefondait sur roclics ct qiCil s'en ecoulait 
de Veau" — Materiaux pour V etude des Glaciers, vol. viii. parti, p. 246, 1868; and 
vol. viii. part ii. p. 77, 1869. 

chap. xiii. FROST AND FIRE DO THE WORK. 271 

mountains (such as are referred to upon pp. 32, 92-3) are, of course, 
caused by these powers. No one doubts it ; but one never believes 
it so thoroughly as when the quarries are seen from which their 
materials have been hewn ; and when the germs, so to speak, of 
these avalanches have been seen actually starting from above. 

These falls of rock take place from two causes. First, from the 
heat of the sun detaching small stones or rocks which have been 
arrested on ledges or slopes and bound together by snow or ice. I 
have seen such released many times when the sun has risen high ; 
fall gently at first, gather strength, grow in volume, and at last 
rush down with a cloud trailing behind, like the dust after an 
express train. Secondly, from the freezing of the water which 
trickles, during the day, into the clefts, fissures, and crannies. This 
agency is naturally most active in the night, and then, or during 
very cold weather, the greatest falls take place.* 

When one has continually seen and heard these falls, it is 
easily understood why the glaciers are laden with moraines. The 
wonder is, not that they are sometimes so great, but that they are 
not always greater. Irrespective of lithological considerations, one 
knows that this debris cannot have been excavated by the glaciers. 
The moraines are borne by glaciers, but they are born from the ridges. 
They are generated by the sun, and delivered by the frost. " Fire," 
it is well said in Plutarch's life of Camillus, " is the most active 
thing in nature, and all generation is motion, or at least, with motion ; 
all other parts of matter without warmth lie sluggish and dead, and 
crave the influence of heat as their life, and when that comes upon 
them, they immediately acquire some active or passive qualities."t 

* In each of the seven nights I passed upon the south-west ridge of the Matter- 
horn in 1861-3 (at heights varying from 11,844 to 12,992 feet above the level of the 
sea), the rocks fell incessantly in showers and avalanches. See p. 175. 

+ Tonson's Ed. of 1758. Bacon may have had this passage in mind when lie 
wrote, " It must not be thought that heat generates motion, or motion heat (though 
in some respects this be true), but that the very essence of heat, or the substantial 
self of heat, is motion and nothing else." — Novum Organum, book ii. Devey's 


If the Alps were granted a perfectly invariable temperature, if 
they were no longer subjected, alternately, to freezing blasts and 
to scorching heat, they might more correctly be termed ' eternal.' 
They might still continue to decay, but their abasement would be 
much less rapid. 

When rocks are covered up by a sheet of glacier they do enjoy 
an almost invariable temperature. The extremes of summer and 
winter are unknown to rocks which are so covered up, — a range of 
a very few degrees is the most that is possible underneath the ice* 
There is, then, little or no disintegration from unequal expansion 
and contraction. Frost, then, does not penetrate into the heart of 
the rock, and cleave off vast masses. The rocks, then, sustain 
grinding instead of cleaving. Atoms, then, come away instead of 
masses. Fissures and overhanging surfaces are bridged, for the ice 
cannot get at them ;f and after many centuries of grinding have 
been sustained, we still find numberless angular surfaces (in the 
lee-sides) which were fashioned before the ice began to work. 

The points of difference which are so evident between the 
operations of heat, cold, and water, and the action of glaciers upon 
rocks, are as follow. The former take advantage of cracks, fissures, 
joints, and soft places ; the latter does not. The former can work 
'underneath overhanging masses ; the latter cannot. The effects 
produced by the former continually increase, because they continu- 
ally expose fresh surfaces by forming new cracks, fissures, and holes. 
The effects which the latter produces constantly diminish, because 
the area of the surfaces operated upon becomes less and less, as they 
become smoother and natter. 

What can one conclude, then, but that sun, frost, and water, have 

* Doubtless, at the sides of glacier -beds, the range of temperature is greater. But 
there is evidence that the winter cold does not penetrate to the innermost recesses of 
glacier-beds in the fact that streams continue to flow underneath the ice all the year 
round, winter as well as summer, in the Alps and (I was informed in Greenland) in 
Greenland. Experimental proof can be readily obtained that even in midsummer the 
bottom temperature is close to 32° Faht. 

+ See pp. 148-4. 

chap. xin. ARRIVAL AT ABRICOLLA. 273 

had infinitely more to do than glaciers with the fashioning of 
mountain-forms and valley-slopes ? Who can refuse to believe that 
powers which are at work everywhere, which have been at work 
always, which are so incomparably active, capable, and enduring, 
must have produced greater effects than a solitary power which is 
always local in its influence, which has worked, comparatively, but 
for a short time, which is always slow and feeble in its operations, 
and which constantly diminishes in intensity ? 

Yet there are some who refuse to believe that sun, frost, and 
water have played an important part in modelling the Alps, and 
hold it as an article of their faith that the Alpine region " owes its 
present conformation mainly to the action of its ancient glaciers " ! * 

My reverie was interrupted by Croz observing that it was time 
to be off. Less than two hours sufficed to take us to the glacier 
plateau below (where we had left our baggage) ; three quarters of 
an hour more placed us upon the depression between the Grand 
Cornier and the Dent Blanche (Col du Grand Cornier t), and at 
6 p.m. we arrived at Abricolla. Croz and Biener hankered after 
milk, and descended to a village lower down the valley ; but Aimer 
and I stayed where we were, and passed a chilly night on some 
planks in a half-burnt chalet.J 

* Professor Tyndall " On the Conformation of the Alps," Phil. Mag., Sept. 1862. 

t This had been crossed, for the first time, a few months before. 

X The following details may interest mountain-climbers. Left Zinal (5505 feet) 
2.5 a.m. Thence to plateau S.E. of summit of Grand Cornier, 5 h. 25 min. Plateau 
to summit of mountain, 2\ hours. The last 300 feet of the ridge followed were ex- 
ceedingly sharp and narrow, with a great cornice, from which huge icicles depended. 
We were obliged to go underneath the cornice, and to cut a Avay through the icicles. 
Descent from summit to plateau, 1 h. 40 min. Sharp snowstorm, with thunder. 
Plateau to summit of Col du Grand Cornier (rocks easy), 45 min. From the summit 
of the Col to the end of glacier leading to the west, 55 min. Thence to Abricolla 
(7959), 15 min. 

2 x 



" God help thee, Trav'ller, on thy journey far ; 
The wind is bitter keen, — the snow o'erlays 
The hidden pits, and dang'rous hollow-ways, 
And darkness will involve thee. — No kind star 

To-night will guide thee." 

H. Kieke White. 

Ckoz and Biener did not return until past 5 a.m. on June 17, and 
we then set out at once for Zermatt, intending to cross the Col 
d'Herens. But we did not proceed far before the attractions of the 
Dent Blanche were felt to be irresistible, and we turned aside up 
the steep lateral glacier which descends along its south-western 

The Dent Blanche is a mountain that is little known except to 
the climbing fraternity. It was, and is, reputed 
to be one of the most difficult mountains in the 
Alps. Many attempts were made to scale it 
before its ascent was accomplished. Even Leslie 
Stephen himself, fleetest of foot of the whole 
Alpine brotherhood, once upon a time returned 
discomfited from it. 

It was not climbed until 1862 ; but in that 
year Mr. T. S. Kennedy, with Mr. Wigram, and 
the guides Jean B. Croz and Kronie, managed 



to conquer it. 

They had a hard fight though before they gained 
* The brother of my guide Michel Croz. 


the victory ; a furious wind and driving snow, added to the natural 
difficulties, nearly turned the scale against them * 

Mr. Kennedy started from Abricolla between 2 and 3 a.m. on 
July 18, 1862, and ascending the glacier that is mentioned in the 
opening paragraph, went towards the point marked 3912 metres 
upon the map ;-f* then turned to the left (that is, to the north), and 
completed the ascent by the southern ridge, — that which overhangs 
the western side of the Schonbiihl glacier. 

Mr. Kennedy described his expedition in a very interesting- 
paper in the Alpine Journal. His account bore the impress of 
truth ; but unbelievers said that it was impossible to have told (in 
weather such as was experienced) whether the summit had actually 
been attained, and sometimes roundly asserted that the mountain, 
as the saying is, yet remained virgin. 

I did not share these doubts, although they influenced me to 
make the ascent. I thought it might be possible to find an easier 
route than that taken by Mr. Kennedy, and that if we succeeded in 
discovering one we should be able at once to refute his traducers, 
and to vaunt our superior wisdom. Actuated by these elevated 
motives, I halted my little army at the foot of the glacier, and in- 
quired, " Which is best for us to do ? — to ascend the Dent Blanche, 
or to cross to Zermatt?" They answered, with befitting solemnity, 
" We think Dent Blanche is best." 

From the chalets of Abricolla the south-west face of the Dent 
Blanche is regarded almost exactly in profile. From thence it is 
seen that the angle of the face scarcely exceeds thirty degrees, and 
after observing this I concluded that the face would, in all pro- 
bability, give an easier path to the summit than the crest of the 
very jagged ridge which was followed by Mr. Kennedy. 

We zigzagged up the glacier along the foot of the face, and 
looked for a way on to it. We looked for some time in vain, for a 
mighty bergschrund effectually prevented approach, and, like a 
fortress' moat, protected the wall from assault. W T e went up and 

* See note to p. 108. f See map of the Valley of Zermatt. 


up, until, I suppose, we were not more than a thousand feet below 
the point marked 3912 metres ; then a bridge was discovered, and 
we dropped down on hands and knees to cross it. 

A bergschrund, it was said on p. 238, is a schrund, and some- 
thing more than a schrund. A schrund is simply a big crevasse. 
A bergschrund is frequently, but not always, a big crevasse. The 
term is applied to the last of the crevasses that one finds, in ascend- 
ing, before quitting the glacier, and taking to the rocks which 
bound it. It is the mountains' schrund. Sometimes it is very 
large, but early in the season (that is to say in the month of June, 
or before) bergschrunds are usually snowed up, or well bridged over, 
and do not give much trouble. Later in the year, say in August, 
they are frequently very great hindrances, and occasionally are 
completely impassable. 

They are lines of rupture consequent upon unequal motion. The 
glaciers below move quicker than the snow or ice which clings 
immediately to the mountains ; hence these fissures result. The 
slower motion of that which is above can only be attributed to its 
having to sustain greater friction ; for the rule is that the upper 
portion is set at a steeper angle than the lower. As that is the 
case, we should expect that the upper portion would move quicker 
than the lower, and it would do so, doubtless, but for the retarda- 
tion of the rocks over which, and through which, it passes* 

We crossed the bergschrund of the Dent Blanche, I suppose, at 
a height of about 12,000 feet above the level of the sea. Our 
work may be said to have commenced at that point. The face, 
although not steep in its general inclination, was so cut up by 
little ridges and cliffs, and so seamed with incipient couloirs, that 
it had all the difficulty of a much more precipitous slope. The 
difficulties were never great, but they were numerous, and made 
a very respectable total when put together. We passed the 

* Couloirs arc invariably protected at their bases by bergschrunds. An example 
of a couloir with a double bergschrund is given on p. 225. 


■iBil! : 



bergschrund soon after nine in the morning, and during the next 
eleven hours halted only five-and-forty minutes. The whole of 
the remainder of the time was occupied in ascending and descend- 
ing the 2400 feet which compose this south-western face ; and 
inasmuch as 1000 feet per hour (taking the mean of ascent and 
descent) is an ordinary rate of progression, it is tolerably certain 
that the Dent Blanche is a mountain of exceptional difficulty. 

The hindrances opposed to us by the mountain itself were, 
however, as nothing compared with the atmospheric obstructions. 
It is true there was plenty of, "Are you fast, Aimer?" "Yes." 
" Go ahead, Biener." Biener, made secure, cried, " Come on, sir," 
and Monsieur endeavoured. " No, no," said Aimer, " not there, — 
Jiere," — pointing with his baton to the right place to clutch. Then 
'twas Croz's turn, and we all drew in the rope as the great man 
followed. " Forwards " once more — and so on. 

Five hundred feet of this kind of work had been accomplished 
when we were saluted (not entirely unexpectedly) by the first gust 
of a hurricane which was raging above. The day was a lovely one 
for dwellers in the valleys, bnt we had, long ago, noted some light, 
gossamer clouds, that were hovering round our summit, being 
drawn out in a suspicious manner into long, silky threads. Croz, 
indeed, prophesied before we had crossed the schrund, that we 
should be beaten by the wind, and had advised that we should 
return. But I had retorted, "No, my good Croz, you said just 
now 'Dent Blanche is best ;' we must go up the Dent Blanche." 

I have a very lively and disagreeable recollection of this wind. 
Upon the outskirts of the disturbed region it was only felt occa- 
sionally. It then seemed to make rushes at one particular man, 
and when it had discomfited him, it whisked itself away to some 
far-off spot, only to return, presently, in greater force than before. 

My old enemy — the Matterhorn — seen across the basin of the 
Z'Muttgletscher, looked totally unassailable. " Do you think," the 
men asked, "that you, or any one else, will ever get up that 
mountain?" And when, undismayed by their ridicule, I stoutly 


answered, " Yes, but not upon that side," they burst into derisive 
chuckles. 1 must confess that my hopes sank ; for nothing can 
look, or he, more completely inaccessible than the Matterhorn on 
its northern and north- west sides. 

" Forwards " once again. We overtopped the Dent d'Herens. 
" Not a thousand feet more ; in three hours we shall be on the 
summit." a You mean ten" echoed Croz, so slow had been the 
progress. But I was not far wrong in the estimate. At 3.15 we 
struck the great ridge followed by Mr. Kennedy, close to the top of 
the mountain. The wind and cold were terrible there. Progress 
was oftentimes impossible, and we waited, crouching under the lee 
of rocks, listening to ' the shrieking of the mindless wind,' while 
the blasts swept across, tearing off the upper snow and blowing it 
away in streamers over the Schonbuhl glacier — "nothing seen 
except an indescribable writhing in the air, like the wind made 

Our goal was concealed by mist, although it was only a few 
yards away, and Croz's prophecy, that we should stay all night 
upon the summit, seemed likely to come true. The men rose with 
the occasion, although even their fingers had nearly lost sensation. 
There were no murmurings, nor suggestions of return, and they 
pressed on for the little white cone which they knew must be near 
at hand. Stopi^ed again ; a big mass perched loosely on the 
ridge barred the way ; we could not crawl over, and scarcely dared 
creep round it. The wine went round for the last time. The 
liquor was half-frozen, — still we would more of it. It was all 
gone ; the bottle was left behind, and we pushed on, for there 
was a lull. 

The end came almost before it was expected. The clouds 
opened, and I saw that we were all but upon the highest point, 
and that, between us and it, about twenty yards off, there was a 
little artificial pile of stones. Kennedy was a true man, — it was a 
cairn which he had erected. "What is that, Croz?" "Homme des 
pierre.%" he bawled. It was needless to proceed further ; I jerked 

chap. xiv. A RACE FOR LIFE. 279 

the rope from Biener, and motioned that we would go back. He 
did the same to Aimer, and we turned immediately. They did not 
see the stones (they were cutting footsteps), and misinterpreted the 
reason of the retreat. Voices were inaudible, and explanations 

We commenced the descent of the face. It was hideous work. 
The men looked like impersonations of Winter, with their hair all 
frosted, and their beards matted with ice. My hands were numbed 
— dead. I begged the others to stop. " We cannot afford to stop ; 
we must continue to move" was their reply. They were right ; to 
stop was to be entirely frozen. So we went down ; gripping rocks 
varnished with ice, which pulled the skin from the fingers. Gloves 
were useless ; they became iced too, and the batons slid through 
them as slippery as eels. The iron of the axes stuck to the fingers 
— it felt red-hot ; but it was useless to shrink, the rocks and the 
axes had to be firmly grasped — no faltering would do here. 

We turned back at 4.12 p.m., and at 8.15 crossed the berg- 
schrund again, not having halted for a minute upon the entire 
descent. During the last two hours it was windless, but time was 
of such vital importance that we pressed on incessantly, and did 
not stop until we were fairly upon the glacier. Then we took 
stock of what remained of the tips of our fingers ; there was not 
much skin left ; they were perfectly raw, and for weeks afterwards 
I was reminded of the ascent of the Dent Blanche by the twinges 
which I felt when I pulled on my boots. The others escaped with 
some slight frost-bites ; and, altogether, we had reason to congra- 
tulate ourselves that we got off so lightly. The men compli- 
mented me upon the descent, and I could do the same honestly 
to them. If they had worked less vigorously, or harmoniously, we 
should have been benighted upon the face, where there was not a 
single spot upon which it was possible to sit ; and if that had hap- 
pened, I do not think that one would have survived to tell the tale. 

The summit of the Dent Blanche is a ridge, perhaps one hundred yards in 
length. The highest point is usually at its north-eastern end. 




We made the descent of the glacier in a mist, and of the moraine 
at its base, and of the slopes below, in total darkness, and regained 
the chalets of Abricolla at 11.45 p.m. We had been absent eighteen 
and a half hours, and out of that time had been going not less than 
seventeen. That night we slept the sleep of those who are 
thoroughly tired * 

Two days afterwards, when walking into Zermatt, whom should 
we meet but Mr. Kennedy. " Hullo !" we said, "we have just seen 

your cairn on the top of the Dent 
Blanche." " No, you haven't," he 
answered, very positively. " What 
do you mean ?" " Why, that you 
cannot have seen my cairn, be- 
cause I didn't make one !" " Well, 
but we saw a cairn." " No doubt ; 
it was made by a man who went 
up the mountain last year with 
Lauener and Zurfluh." " O-o-h," 
we said, rather disgusted at hear- 
ing news when we expected to 
communicate some, " O-o-h ! good morning, Kennedy." Before this 
happened, we managed to lose our way upon the Col d'Herens ; 
but an account of that must be reserved for the next chapter. 

* The ascent of the Dent Blanche is the hardest that I have made. There was 
nothing upon it so difficult as the last 500 feet of the Pointe des Ecrins ; but, on the 
other hand, there was hardly a step upon it which was positively easy. The whole 
of the face required actual climbing. There was, probably, very little difference 
in difficulty between the route we took in 1865, and that followed by Mr. Kennedy 
in 1862. 





" Oh ! ye immortal gods, where in the world are we ?" 


We should have started for Zermatt about 7 a.m. on the 18th, had 
not Biener asked to be allowed to go to mass at Evolene, a village 
about two and a half hours from Abricolla. He received permission, 
on the condition that he returned not later than mid-day, but he 
did not come back until 2.30 p.m., and we thereby got into a pretty 
little mess. 

The pass which we were about to traverse to Zermatt — the Col 
d'Herens — is one of the few glacier-passes in this district which 
have been known almost from time immemorial. It is frequently 
crossed in the summer season, and is a very easy route, notwith- 
standing that the summit of the pass is 11,417 feet above the level 
of the sea.* 

From Abricolla to the summit the way lies chiefly over the flat 
Glacier de Ferpecle. The walk is of the most straightforward kind. 
The glacier rises in gentle undulations ; its crevasses are small and 
easily avoided ; and all you have to do, after once getting upon the 
ice, is to proceed due south, in the most direct manner possible. 
If you do so, in two hours you should be upon the summit of the 

We tied ourselves in line, of course, when we entered upon the 

* See map of the Valley of Zermatt. The route taken upon June 19 is alone 

2 o 


glacier ; and placed Biener to lead, as he had frequently crossed the 
pass ; supposing that his local knowledge might save us some time 
upon the other side. We had proceeded, I suppose, about half- 
way up, when a little, thin cloud dropped down upon us from 
above ; but it was so light, so gauzy, that we did not for a moment 
suppose that it would become embarrassing, and hence I neglected 
to note at the proper moment the course which we should steer, — 
that is to say, to observe our precise situation, in regard to the 
summit of the pass. 

Tor some little time Biener progressed steadily, making a toler- 
ably straight track ; but at length he wavered, and deviated some- 
times to the right, and sometimes to the left. Croz rushed forward 
directly he saw this, and taking the poor young man by his 
shoulders gave him a good shaking, told him that he was an im- 
becile, to untie himself at once, and go to the rear. Biener looked 
half- frightened, and obeyed without a murmur. Croz led off briskly, 
and made a good straight track for a few minutes ; but then, it 
seemed to me, began to move steadily round to the left. I looked 
back, but the mist was now too thick to see our traces, and so we 
continued to follow our leader. At last the others (who were 
behind, and in a better position to judge) thought the same as I 
did, and we pulled up Croz to deliver our opinion. He took 
our criticism in good part, but when Biener opened his mouth that 
was too much for him to stand, and he told the young man again, 
" You are imbecile ; I bet you twenty francs to one that my track 
is better than yours ; twenty francs, now then, imbecile !" 

Aimer went to the front. He commenced by returning in the 
track for a hundred yards or so, and then started off at a tangent 
from Croz's curve. We kept this course for half-an-hour, and then 
were certain that we were not on the right route, because the 
snow became decidedly steep. We bore away more and more to 
the right, to avoid this steep bank, but at last I rebelled, as we 
had for some time been going almost south-west, which was 
altogether the wrong direction. After a long discussion we 

chap. xv. BEWILDERED. 283 

returned some distance in our track, and then steered a little east 
of south, but we continually met steep snow-slopes, and to avoid 
them went right or left as the case might require. 

We were greatly puzzled, and could not in the least tell 
whether we were too near the Dent Blanche or too close to the 
Tete Blanche. The mists had thickened, and were now as dense as 
a moderate London fog. There were no rocks or echoes to direct us, 
and the guidance of the compass brought us invariably against these 
steep snow-banks. The men were fairly beaten ; they had all had 
a try, or more than one, and at last gave it up as a bad job, and 
asked what was to be done. It was 7.30 p.m. and only an hour of 
daylight was left. We were beginning to feel used up, for we had 
wandered about at tip-top speed for the last three hours and a half, so 
I said, " This is my advice ; let us turn in our track, and go back as 
hard as ever we can, not quitting the track for an instant." They 
were well content, but just as we were starting off, the clouds lifted 
a little, and we thought we saw the Col. It was then to our right, 
and we went at it with a dash, but before we had gone a hundred 
paces down came the mist again. We kept on nevertheless for 
twenty minutes, and then, as darkness was perceptibly coming on, 
and the snow was yet rising in front, we turned back, and by run- 
ning down the entire distance managed to get clear of the Ferpecle 
glacier just as it became pitch dark. We arrived at our cheerless 
chalet in due course, and went to bed supperless, for our food was 
gone ; all very sulky — not to say savage — agreeing in nothing 
except in bullying Biener. 

At 7 a.m. on the 19th, we set out, for the third time, for the 
Col d'Herens. It was a fine day, and we gradually recovered our 
tempers as we saw the follies which had been committed on the 
previous evening. Biener' s wavering track was not so bad ; but 
Croz had swerved from the right route from the first, and had 
traced a complete semicircle, so that when we stopped him we 
were facing Abricolla — whence we had started. Aimer had com- 
menced with great discretion ; but he kept on too long, and crossed 


the proper route. When I stopped them (because we were going 
south-west), we were a long way up the Teite Blanche ! Our last 
attempt was in the right direction ; we were actually upon the 
summit of the pass, and in another ten yards we should have com- 
menced to go down hill ! It is needless to point out that if the 
compass had been looked to at the proper moment — that is, im- 
mediately the mist came down — we should have avoided all our 
troubles. It was little use afterwards, except to tell us when we 
were going wrong. 

"We arrived at Zermatt in six and a half hours' walking from 
Abricolla, and Seller's hospitable reception set us all right again. 
On the 20th we crossed the Theodule pass, and diverged from its 
summit up the Theodulhorn (11,391) to examine a route which I 
suggested for the ascent of the Matterhorn ; but before continuing 
an account of our proceedings, I must stop for a minute to explain 
why this new route was proposed, in place of that up the south- 
western ridge. 

The Matterhorn may be divided into three sections* The first, 
facing the Z'Muttgletscher, which looks, and is, completely unas- 
sailable ; the second, facing the east, which seems inaccessibility 
itself ; the third, facing Breil, which does not look entirely hope- 
less. It was from this last direction that all my previous attempts 
were made. It was by the south-western ridge, it will be remem- 
bered, that not only I, but Mr. Hawkins, Professor Tyndall, and 
the chasseurs of Val Tournanche, essayed to climb the mountain. 
Why then abandon a route which had been shown to be feasible up 
to a certain point ? 

I gave it up for four reasons. 1. On account of my growing 
disinclination for aretes, and preference for snow and rock faces 
(see Chap, xiii.) 2. Because I was persuaded that meteorologi- 
cal disturbances (by which we had been baffled several times) 
might be expected to occur again and again -f* (see Chaps, v. and 

* See Chap. iv. pp. 82-4. 
f Subsequent experiences of others have strengthened this opinion. 



vii.) 3. Because I found that the east face was a gross imposition 
— it looked not far from perpendicular, while its angle was, in fact, 
scarcely more than 40°. 4. Because I observed for myself that the 
strata of the mountain dipped to the west-south-west. It is not 
necessary to say anything more than has been already said upon the 
first two of these four points, but upon the latter two a few words 
are indispensable. Let us consider, first, why most persons receive 
such an exaggerated impression of the steepness of the eastern face. 

When one looks at the Matterhorn from Zermatt, the mountain 
is regarded (nearly) from the north-east. The face that fronts the 
east is consequently neither seen in profile nor in full front, but 
almost half-way between the two ; it looks, therefore, more steep 
than it really is. The majority of those who visit Zermatt go up 
to the Eiffelberg, or to the Gornergrat, and from these places 
the mountain naturally looks still more precipitous, because its 
eastern face (which is almost all that is seen of it) is viewed more 
directly in front. From the Riffel hotel the slope seems to be set 
at an angle of 70°. If the tourist continues to go southwards, and 
crosses the Theodule pass, he gets, at one point, immediately in 
front of the eastern face, which then seems to be absolutely per- 
pendicular. Comparatively few persons correct the erroneous im- 
pressions they receive in these quarters by studying the face in 
profile, and most go away with a very incorrect and exaggerated 
idea of the precipitousness of this side of the mountain, because 
they have considered the question from one point of view alone. 

Several years passed away before I shook myself clear of my 
early and false impressions regarding the steepness of this side of 
the Matterhorn. First of all, I noticed that there were places on 
this eastern face where snow remained permanently all the year 
round. I do not speak of snow in gullies, but of the considerable 
slopes which are seen upon the accompanying engraving, about half- 
way up the face. Such beds as these could not continue to remain 
throughout the summer, unless the snow had been able to accumu- 
late in the winter in large masses ; and snow cannot accumulate 


and remain in large masses, in a situation such as this, at angles 
much exceeding 45° .* Hence I was bound to conclude that the 
eastern face was many degrees removed from perpendicularity ; 
and, to be sure on this point, I went to the slopes between the 
Z'Muttgletscher and the Matterhorngletscher, above the chalets of 
Staffel, whence the face could be seen in profile. Its appearance 
from this direction would be amazing to one who had seen it only 
from the east. It looks so totally different from the apparently 
sheer and perfectly unclimbable cliff one sees from the Biffelberg, 
that it is hard to believe the two slopes are one and the same 
thing. Its angle scarcely exceeds 40°. 

A great step was made when this was learnt. This know- 
ledge alone would not, however, have caused me to try an ascent 
by the eastern face instead of by the south-west ridge. Forty 
degrees may not seem a formidable inclination to the reader, nor 
is it for only a small cliff. But it is very unusual to find so steep 
a gradient maintained continuously as the general angle of a 
great mountain-slope, and very few instances can be quoted from 
the High Alps of such an angle being preserved over a rise of 3000 

I do not think that the steepness or the height of this cliff 
would have deterred climbers from attempting to ascend it, if it 
had not, in addition, looked so repulsively smooth. Men despaired 
of finding anything to grasp. Now, some of the difficulties of the 
south-west ridge came from the smoothness of the rocks, although 
that ridge, even from a distance, seemed to be well broken up. 
How much greater, then, might not have been the difficulty of 
climbing a face which looked smooth and unbroken close at 
hand ? 

A more serious hindrance to mounting the south-west ridge is 
found in the dip of its rocks to the west-south-west. The great 
mass of the Matterhorn, it is now well ascertained, is composed of 

* I prefer to be on the safe side. My impression is that snow cannot accumulate 
in large masses at 45°. 



This is shown in 
and the annexed 

Pig. 1. 

Fiff. 2. 

regularly stratified rocks,* which rise towards the east. It has been 
mentioned in the text, more than once, that the rocks on some por- 
tions of the ridge leading from the Col du Lion to the summit dip 
outwards, and that fractured edges overhang.*!* 
the illustrations facing pp. 119 and 127 ; 
diagram, Fig. 1, exhibits the same thing 
still more clearly. It will be readily 
understood that such an arrangement 
is not favourable for climbers, and that 
the degree of facility with which rocks 
can be ascended that are so disposed, 
must depend very much upon the fre- 
quency or paucity of fissures and joints. 
The rocks of the south-west ridge are 
sufficiently provided with cracks, but if 
it were otherwise, their texture and ar- 
rangement would render them unassail- 

It is not possible to go a single time upon the rocks of the 
south-west ridge, from the Col du Lion to the foot of the Great 
Tower, without observing the prevalence of their outward dip, and 
that their fractured edges have a tendency to overhang ; nor can 
one fail to notice that it is upon this account the debris, which is 
rent off by frost, does not remain in situ, but pours down in 
showers over the surrounding cliffs. Each day's work r so to speak, 
is cleared away ; the ridge is swept clean ; there is scarcely any- 
thing seen but firm rock.§ 

* Upon this subject I beg to refer the reader to the valuable note furnished by 
Signor F. Giordano in the Appendix. 

t See pp. 94 and 11]. 

% Weathered granite is an admirable rock to climb ; its gritty texture giving ex- 
cellent hold to the nails in one's boots. But upon such metamorphic schists as 
compose the mass of the great peak of the Matterhorn, the texture of the rock itself 
is of no value. 

§ I refer here only to that portion of the ridge which is between the Col du Lion 


The fact that the mountain is composed of a series of stratified 
beds was pointed out long ago. De Saussure remarked it, and 
recorded explicitly, in his Travels (§ 2243), that they " rose to the 
north-east at an angle of about 45°." Forbes noticed it also ; but 
gave it as his opinion that the beds were " less inclined, or nearly 
horizontal." He added, " De Saussure is no doubt correct."* The 
truth, I think, lies between the two. 

I was acquainted with both of the above-quoted passages, but 
did not turn the knowledge to any practical account until I re-ob- 
served the same fact for myself. It was not until after my repulse 
in 1863, that I referred the peculiar difficulties of the south-west 
ridge to the dip of the strata ; but when once persuaded that struc- 
ture and not texture was the real impediment, it was reasonable to 
infer that the opposite side, that is to say the eastern face, might 
be comparatively easy. In brief, that an arrangement should be 
found like Fig. 2, instead of like Fig. 1. This trivial deduction 
was the key to the ascent of the Matterhorn. 

The point was, Did the strata continue with a similar dip 
throughout the mountain? If they did, then this great eastern 
face, instead of being hopelessly impracticable, should be quite the 
reverse. In fact, it should be a great natural staircase, with steps 
inclining inwards ; and, if it were so, its smooth aspect might be 
of no account, for the smallest steps, inclined in this fashion, would 
afford good footing. 

They did so, as far as one could judge from a distance. When 
snow fell in the summer time, it brought out long terraced lines 
upon the mountain ; rudely parallel to each other ; inclined in the 
direction shown (approximately) upon the figures in the accom- 
panying plate : and the eastern face, on those occasions, was often 
whitened almost completely over ; while the other sides, with the 

and the Great Tower. The remarks would not apply to the rocks higher up (see p. 
118) ; higher still the rocks are firm again ; yet higher (upon the " Shoulder ") they 
are much disintegrated ; and then, upon the final peak, they are again firm. 
* Travels through the Alps, 2d ed. p. 317. 






chap. xv. WE TRY ANOTHER ROUTE. 289 

exception of the powdered terraces, remained black — for the snow 
could not rest upon them. 

The very outline of the mountain, too, confirmed the conjecture 
that its structure would assist an ascent on the eastern face, 
although it opposed one on all other sides. Look at any photograph 
of the peak from the north-east (or, failing one, the outline facing 
page 288, which is carefully traced from one), and you will see 
that upon the right-hand side (that facing the Z'Muttgletscher) 
there is an incessant repetition of overhanging cliffs, and of slopes 
all trending downwards ; in short, that the character of the whole 
of that side is similar to Fig. 1, p. 287 ; and that upon the left 
hand (or south-east) ridge, the forms, as far as they go, are sug- 
gestive of the structure of Tig. 2. There is no doubt that the con- 
tours of the mountain, seen from this direction, have been largely 
influenced by the direction of its beds. 

It was not, therefore, from a freak, that I invited Mr. Eeilly to 
join in an attack upon the eastern face, but from a gradually-ac- 
quired conviction that it would prove to give the easiest path to 
the summit ; and, if we had not been obliged to part, the mountain 
would, doubtless, have been ascended in 1864. 

My guides readily admitted that they had been greatly deceived 
as to the steepness of the eastern face, when they were halted to 
look at it in profile, as we came down the Z'Muttgletscher, on our 
way to Zermatt ; but they were far from being satisfied that it 
would turn out to be easy to climb, and Aimer and Biener ex- 
pressed themselves decidedly averse to making an attempt upon it. 
I gave way temporarily before their evident reluctance, and we 
made the ascent of the Theodulhorn to examine an alternative 
route, which I expected would commend itself to them in prefer- 
ence to the other, as a great part of it led over snow. 

There is an immense gully in the Matterhorn, which leads 
up from the Glacier du Mont Cervin to a point high up on the 

2 p 


south-eastern ridge * I proposed to ascend this to its head, and to 
cross over the south-east ridge on to the eastern face. This would 
have brought us on a level with the bottom of the great snow-slope 
shown upon the centre of the eastern face in the engraving facing 
p. 285. This snow-slope was to be crossed diagonally, with the 
view of arriving at the snow upon the north-east ridge, which is 
shown upon the same engraving, about half-an-inch from the 
summit. The remainder of the ascent was to be made by the 
broken rocks, mixed with snow, upon the north side of the moun- 
tain. Croz caught the idea immediately, and thought the plan 
feasible ; details were settled, and we descended to Breil. Luc 
Meynet, the hunchback, was summoned, and expressed himself 
delighted to resume his old vocation of tent-bearer ; and Favre's 
kitchen was soon in commotion preparing three days' rations, for I 
intended to take that amount of time over the affair — to sleep on 
the first night upon the rocks at the top of the gully ; to make a 
push for the summit, and to return to the tent on the second day ; 
and upon the third to come back to Breil. 

We started at 5.45 a.m. on June 21, and followed the route of the 
Breuiljoch-f- for three hours. We were then in full view of our gully, 
and turned off at right angles for it. The closer we approached, 
the more favourable did it look. There was a good deal of snow in 
it, which was evidently at a small angle, and it seemed as if one- 
third of the ascent, at least, would be a very simple matter. Some 
suspicious marks in the snow at its base suggested that it was not 
free from falling stones, and, as a measure of precaution, we turned 
off on one side, worked up under cover of the cliffs, and waited to 
see if anything should descend. Nothing fell, so we proceeded up 
its right or northern side, sometimes cutting steps up the snow 
and sometimes mounting by the rocks. Shortly before 10 a.m. we 
arrived at a convenient place for a halt, and stopped to rest upon 

* Its position is shown "by the letter F, on the right of the outline, on p. 128. 
See also map of the Matterhorn and its glaciers, 
f See p. 137. 

chap. xv. "SAUVE QUI PEUT!" 291 

some rocks, immediately close to the snow, which commanded an 
excellent view of the gully. 

While the men were unpacking the food I went to a little pro- 
montory to examine our proposed route more narrowly, and to 
admire our noble couloir, which led straight up into the heart of 
the mountain for fully one thousand feet. It then bent towards 
the north, and ran up to the crest of the south-eastern ridge. My 
curiosity was piqued to know what was round this corner, and 
whilst I was gazing up at it, and following with the eye the 
exquisitely drawn curves which wandered down the snow in the 
gully, all converging to a large rut in its centre, I saw a few little 
stones skidding down. I consoled myself with thinking that they 
would not interfere with us if we adhered to the side. But then a 
larger one came down, a solitary fellow, rushing at the rate of sixty 
miles an hour — and another — and another. I was unwilling to 
raise the fears of the men unnecessarily, and said nothing to them. 
They did not hear the stones. Aimer was seated on a rock, carving 
large slices from a leg of mutton, the others were chatting, and the 
first intimation they had of danger was from a crash — a sudden 
roar — which reverberated awfully amongst the cliffs, and, looking up, 
they saw masses of rocks, boulders and stones, big and little, dart 
round the corner eight hundred feet or so above us, fly with fearful 
fury against the opposite cliffs, rebound from them against the 
walls on our side, and descend ; some ricochetting from side to 
side in a frantic manner ; some bounding down in leaps of a hun- 
dred feet or more over the snow ; and more trailing down in a 
jumbled, confused mass, mixed with snow and ice, deepening the 
grooves which, a moment before, had excited my admiration. 

The men looked wildly around for protection, and, dropping the 
food, dashed under cover in all directions. The precious mutton 
was pitched on one side, the wine-bag was let fall, and its contents 
gushed out from the unclosed neck, while all four cowered under 
defending rocks, endeavouring to make themselves as small as 
possible. Let it not be supposed that their fright was unreason- 


able, or that I was free from it. I took good care to make myself 
safe, and went and cringed in a cleft until the storm had passed. 
But their scramble to get under shelter was indescribably ludicrous. 
Such a panic I have never witnessed, before or since, upon a 

This ricochet practice was a novelty to me. It arose, of course, 
from the couloir being bent, and from the falling rocks having 
acquired great pace before they passed the angle. In straight 
gullies it will, probably, never be experienced. The rule is, as I 
have already remarked (p. 225), that falling stones keep down the 
centres of gullies, and they are out of harm's way if one follows the 


There would have been singularly little amusement, and very 
great risk, in mounting this gully, and we turned our backs upon 
it with perfect unanimity. The question then arose, "What is 
to be done?" I suggested climbing the rocks above ns, but this 
was voted impossible. I thought the men were right, but would 
not give in without being assured of the fact, and clambered up to 

chap. XT. REPULSED. 293 

settle the question. In a few minutes I was brought to a halt. My 
forces were scattered ; the little hunchback alone was closely fol- 
lowing me — with a broad grin upon his face, and the tent upon his 
shoulder ; Croz, more behind, was still keeping an eye upon his 
Monsieur ; Aimer, a hundred feet below, sat on a rock with his 
face buried in his hands ; Biener was nowhere, out of sight. " Come 
down, come down," shouted Croz ; " it is useless," and I turned at 
length, convinced that it was even as he said. Thus my little plan 
was knocked on the head, and we were thrown back upon the 
original scheme. 

We at once made a straight track for Mr. Morshead's Breuiljoch,* 
(which was the most direct route to take in order to get to the 
Hornli, where we intended to sleep, preparatory to attacking the 
eastern face), and arrived upon its summit at 12.30 p.m. We were 
then unexpectedly checked. The pass, as one, had vanished ! and 
we found ourselves cut off from the Furggengletscher by a small 
but precipitous wall of rock ; — the glacier had shrunk so much 
that descent was impracticable. During the last hour clouds had 
been coming up from the south ; they now surrounded us, and it 
began to blow hard. The men clustered together, and advocated 
leaving the mountain alone. Aimer asked, with more point than 
politeness, " Why don't you try to go up a mountain which can be 
ascended? " "It is impossible," chimed in Biener. "Sir," said Croz, 
" if we cross to the other side we shall lose three days, and very 
likely shall not succeed. You want to make ascents in the chain 
of Mont Blanc, and I believe they can be made. But I shall 
not be able to make them with you if I spend these days here, 
for I must be at Chamounix on the 27th." There was force in 
what he said, and his words made me hesitate. I relied upon his 
strong arms for some work which it was expected would be un- 
usually difficult. Snow began to fall ; that settled the matter, and 
I gave the word to retreat. We went back to Breil, and on to the 
village of Val Tournanche, where we slept ; and the next day pro- 

* See note to p. 138. 


ceeded to Chatillon, and thence up the valley of Aosta to Cor- 

I cannot but regret that the counsels of the guides prevailed. 
If Croz had not uttered his well-intentioned words, he might still 
have been living. He parted from us at Chamounix at the appointed 
time, but by a strange chance we met again at Zermatt three 
weeks later, and two days afterwards he perished before my eyes 
on the very mountain from which we turned away, at his advice, 
on the 21st of June. 



* * * " When we were boys, 

Who would believe that there were mountaineers 
Dew-lapp'd like bulls, whose throats had hanging at them 
Wallets of flesh ? " ...... 


The valley of Aosta is famous for its Bouquetins, and infamous for 
its Cretins. The Bouquetin, Steinbock, or Ibex, was formerly widely 
distributed throughout the Alps. It is now confined almost entirely, 
or absolutely, to a small district on the south of the valley of 
Aosta, and fears have been repeatedly expressed in late years that 
it will speedily become extinct. 

But the most sanguine person does not imagine that cretinism 
will be eradicated for many generations. It is widely spread 
throughout the Alps ; it is by no means peculiar to the valley of 
Aosta ; but nowhere does it thrust itself more frequently upon 
the attention of the traveller, and in no valley where " every pro- 
spect pleases," is one so often and so painfully reminded that " only 
man is vile." 

It seems premature to fear that the bouquetin will soon be- 
come extinct. It is not easy to take a census of them, for, although 
they have local habitations, it is extremely difficult to find them at 
home. But there is good reason to believe that there are at least 
600 still roaming over the mountains in the neighbourhood of the 
valleys of Grisanche, Ehemes, Savaranche, and Cogne. 

It would be a pity if it were otherwise. They appeal to the 
sympathies of all as the remnants of a diminishing race, and no 


mountaineer or athletic person could witness without sorrow the 
extinction of an animal possessing such noble qualities ; — which a 
few months after birth can jump over a man's head at a bound, 
without taking a run ; which passes its whole life in a constant 
fight for existence ; which has such a keen appreciation of the 
beauties of nature, and such disregard of pain that it will " stand for 
hours like a statue, in the midst of the bitterest storm, until the tips 
of its ears are frozen" ! and which, when its last hour arrives, "climbs 
to the highest mountain-peaks, hangs on a rock with its horns, 
twists itself round and round upon them until they are worn off, 
and then falls down and expires " ! ! * Even Tschudi himself calls 
this story wonderful. He may well do so. I disclaim belief in it, 
— the bouquetin is too fine a beast to indulge in such antics. 

Forty-five keepers, selected from the most able chasseurs of the 
district, guard its haunts. Their task is not a light one, although 
they are, naturally, acquainted with those who are most likely to 
attempt poaching. If they were withdrawn, it would not be long 
before the ibex would be an extinct wild animal, so far as the 
Alps are concerned. The passion for killing something, and the 
present value of the beast itself, would soon lead to its extermina- 
tion. Tor as meat alone the bouquetin is valuable ; the gross 
weight of one that is full grown amounting from 160 to 200 lbs ; 
while its skin and horns are worth £10 and upwards, according to 
condition and dimensions. 

In spite of the keepers, and of the severe penalties which may 
be inflicted for killing a bouquetin, poaching occurs constantly. 
Knowing that this was the case, I inquired at Aosta, upon my last 
visit, if any skins or horns were for sale, and in ten minutes was 
taken into a garret where the remains of a splendid beast were 
concealed, — a magnificent male, presumed to be more than twenty 
years old, as its massive horns had twenty-two more or less strongly 
marked knobby rings. The extreme length of the skin, from the 
tip of the nose to the end of the tail, was 1 metre 09 centimetres 

* Tschudi's Sketches of Nature in the Alps. 

CHAP. xvr. 



(about 5 feet 7 inches),* and from the ground to the top of its back 
had been, apparently, about 77 centimetres. It is rare to meet 
with a bouquetin of these dimensions, and the owner of this 
skin might have been visited with several years' imprisonment 
if it had been known that it was in his possession. 


The chase of the bouquetin is properly considered a sport fit 
for a king, and his Majesty Victor -Emmanuel, for whom it is 
reserved, is too good a sportsman to slaughter indiscriminately an 
animal which is an ornament to his dominions. Last year (1869) 

* Probably stretched in skinning. 
2 Q 


seventeen fell to his gun at one hundred yards and upwards. In 
1868 his Majesty presented a fine specimen to the Italian Alpine 
Club. The members banqueted, I believe, upon its flesh, and they 
have had the skin stuffed, and set up in their rooms at Aosta. It 
is said by connoisseurs to be badly stuffed, — that it is not broad 
enough in the chest, and is too large behind. Still it looks well 
proportioned, although it seems made for hard work rather than for 
feats of agility. From this specimen the accompanying engraving 
has been made. 

It is a full-grown male, about twelve years old, and if it stood 
upright would measure 3 feet 3 J inches from the ground to the 
base of its horns. Its extreme length is 4 feet 7 inches. Its 
horns have eleven well-marked rings, besides one or two faintly- 
marked ones, and are (measured round their curvature) 54J centi- 
metres in length. The horns of the specimen referred to on p. 296 
(measured in the same way) had a length of only 53 1 centimetres, 
although they were ornamented with nearly double the number of 
rings, and were presumably of double the age of the former * 

The keepers, and the chasseurs of this district, not only say that 
the rings upon the horns of the ibex tell its age (each one reckon- 
ing as a year), but that the half-developed ones, which sometimes 
are very feebly marked indeed, show that the animal has suffered 
from hunger during the winter. Naturalists are sceptical upon this 
point ; but inasmuch as they offer no better reason against the re- 
puted fact than the natives do in its favour (one saying that it is 
not so, and the other saying that it is so), we may, perhaps, be per- 
mitted to consider it an open question. I can only say that if the 
faintly-marked rings do denote years of famine, the times for the 
bouquetin are very hard indeed ; since, in most of the horns which 
I have seen, the lesser rings have been very numerous, and some- 
times more plentiful than the prominent ones. 

* Mr. King, in his Italian Valleys of the Atys, says, " In the pair (of horns) I 
possess, which are two feet long, there are eight of these yearly rings." It would seem, 
therefore (if the rings are annual ones), that the maximum length of horn is attained 
at a comparatively early age. 

chap. xvi. ON CRETINISM. 299 

The Chef of the keepers (who judges by the above-mentioned 
indications) tells me that the ibex not unfrequently arrives at the 
age of thirty years, and sometimes to forty or forty-five. He says, 
too, that it is not fond of traversing steep snow, and in descending 
a couloir that is filled with it, will zig-zag down, by springing from 
one side to the other, in leaps of fifty feet at a time ! Jean Tairraz,* 
the worthy landlord of the Hotel du Mont Blanc at Aosta (who has 
had opportunities of observing the animal closely), assures me that 
at the age of four or five months it can easily clear a height of nine 
or ten feet at a bound ! 

Long live the bouquetin ! and long may its chase preserve the 
health of the mountaineering king, Victor-Emmanuel. Long life 
to the bouquetin ! but down with the cretin ! 

The peculiar form of idiocy which is called Cretinism-)- is so 
highly developed in the Valley of Aosta, and the natives are so 
familiarised with it, that they are almost indignant when the sur- 
prised traveller remarks its frequency. One is continually reminded 
that it is not peculiar to the valley, and that there are cretins else- 
where. It is too true that this terrible scourge is wide-spread 
throughout the Alps and over the world, and that there are places 
where the proportion of cretins to population is, or has been, even 
greater than in the Valley of Aosta ; but I have never seen, or 
heard of, a valley so fertile and so charming, of one which — apart 
from cretinism — leaves so agreeable an impression upon the way- 
farer, where equal numbers are reduced to a condition which any 
respectable ape might despise. 

The whole subject of cretinism is surrounded with difficulty. 
The number of those who are afflicted by it is unknown ; its cure 
is doubtful ; and its origin is mysterious. It has puzzled the most 

Jean Tairraz was the leading guide of the late Albert Smith on his celebrated 
ascent of Mont Blanc. 

t " Cretinism may be looked upon as being the highest stage of Idiocy, although 
it differs from it, in having a vitiated state of the body, in conjunction with the loss 
of the faculties of the mind. Thus it is composed of two distinct elements,— the 
one, Idiocy, the other, bad habit of body."— Blackie, On Cretinism, p. 6. 




acute observers, and every general statement in regard to it must 
be fenced by qualifications. 

It is tolerably certain, however, that the centre of its distribu- 
tion in the valley of Aosta is about the centre of the valley. The 
city of Aosta itself may be regarded as its head-quarters. It is 
there, and in the neighbouring towns of Gignod, Villeneuve, St. 
Vincent, and Verrex, and in the villages and upon the high-road 
between those places, that these distorted, mindless beings, more like 
brutes than men, commonly excite one's disgust by their hideous, 
loathsome, and uncouth appearance, by their obscene gestures, and 

by their senseless gabbling. 
The accompanying portrait 
of one is by no means over- 
drawn — some are too fright- 
ful for representation. 

How can we account for 
this particular intensity to- 
wards the middle of the val- 
ley ? Why is it that cretins 
become more and more nu- 
merous after Ivrea is passed, 
attain their highest ratio and 
lowest degradation at or 
about the chief town of the 
valley, and then diminish in 
numbers as its upper ter- 
mination is approached ? 
This maximum of intensity 
must certainly point to a cause, or to a combination of causes, operat- 
ing about Aosta, which are less powerful at the two extremities of 
the valley ; and if the reason for it could be determined, the springs 
of cretinism would be exposed. 

The disease would be even more puzzling than it is if it were 
confined to this single locality, and the inquirer were to find not 



merely that it was almost unknown upon the plains to the east 
and in the districts to the west, but that the vallevs radiating 
north and south from the main valley were practically unaffected 
by it. For it is a remarkable circumstance, which has attracted 
the notice of all who have paid attention to cretinism, that the 
natives of the tributary valleys are almost free from the malady ; 
— that people of the same race, speaking the same language, 
breathing the same air, eating the same food, and living the same 
life, enjoy almost entire immunity from it, while, at the distance of 
a very few miles, thousands of others are completely in its power. 

A parallel case is found, however, on the other side of the Pen- 
nine Alps. The Ehone valley is almost equally disfigured by 
cretinism, and in it, too, the extremities of the valley are slightly 
affected compared with the intermediate districts — particularly 
those between Brieg and St. Maurice* This second example 
strengthens the conviction that the great development of cretinism 
in the middle of the valley of Aosta is not the result of accidental 

It was formerly supposed that cretinism arose from the 
habitual drinking of snow and glacier- water. De Saussure opposed 
to this conjecture the facts, that the disease was entirely unknown 
precisely in those places where the inhabitants were most dependent 
upon these kinds of water, and that it was most common where 
such was not the case ; — that the high valleys were untainted, 
while the low ones were infected.i* The notion seems to have 
proceeded from cretins being confounded with persons who were 
merely goitred ; or, at least, from the supposition that goitre was 
an incipient stage of cretinism. 

Goitre, it is now well ascertained, is induced by the use of 

It was stated a few years ago that one in twenty-five of the natives of the Can- 
ton Valais (which is chiefly occupied by the valley of the upper Rhone) were cretins. 
This would give about 3500 to the canton. At the same time the valley of Aosta 
contained about 2000 cretins. 

t Voyages dans Us Alpes, § 1033. 


chemically impure water, and especially hard water ; and the in- 
vestigations of various observers have discovered that goitre has an 
intimate connection with certain geological formations.* In har- 
mony with these facts, it is found that infants are seldom born 
with goitres, but that they develop as the child grows up ; that 
they will sometimes appear and disappear from mere change of 
locality ;*f- and that it is possible to produce them intentionally. 

It is not so certain that the causes which produce goitre should 
be regarded as causes of the production or maintenance of cretinism. 
It is true that cretins are very generally goitrous, but it is also 
true that there are tens of thousands of goitrous persons who are 
entirely free from all traces of cretinism. Not only so, but that 
there are districts in the Alps, and outside of them (even in our 
own country), where goitre is not rare, but where the cretin is un- 
known. Still, regarding the evil state of body which leads to 
goitre as being, possibly, in alliance with cretinism, it will not be 
irrelevant to give the former disease a little more attention before 
continuing the consideration of the main subject. 

In this country the possession of a goitre is considered a mis- 
fortune rather than otherwise, and individuals who are afflicted 
with these appendages attempt to conceal their shame. In the 
Alps it is quite the reverse. In France, Italy, and Switzerland, 
it is a positive advantage to be goitred, as it secures exemption 
from military service. A goitre is a thing to be prized, exhibited, 
preserved — it is worth so much hard cash ; and it is an unques- 
tionable fact that the perpetuation of the great goitrous family 
is assisted by this very circumstance. 

When Savoy was annexed to France, the administration took 
stock of the resources of its new territory, and soon discovered 

* Dr. Moffat communicated a paper on this subject at the last (1870) meeting of 
the British Association at Liverpool, in which he stated he had ascertained that in 
a Carboniferous district goitre was prevalent, and that it was absent on New Red 

t Goitre is endemic at Briancon, and frequently affects, temporarily, the soldiers 
who are stationed in that fortress. Chabrand (a doctor of Briancon) says that no less 

chap. xvi. ON GOITRE. 303 

that, although the acres were many, the conscripts would be few. 
The government bestirred itself to amend this state of affairs, and 
after arriving at the conclusion that goitre was produced by drink- 
ing bad water (and that its production was promoted by sottish 
and bestial habits), took measures to cleanse the villages, to 
analyse the waters (in order to point out those which should not be 
drank), and to give to children who came to school lozenges con- 
taining small closes of iodine. It is said that out of 5000 goitrous 
children who were so treated in the course of eight years, 2000 were 
cured, and the condition of 2000 others was improved ; and that the 
number of cures would have been greater if the parents " had not 
opposed the care of the government, in order to preserve the privilege 
of exemption from military servicer * These benighted creatures 
refused the Marshal's baton and preferred their " wallets of flesh !""f 
No wonder that the Prefet for Haute-Savoie proposes that 
goitrous persons shall no longer be privileged. Let him go farther, 
and obtain a decree that all of them capable of bearing arms shall 

than one in twenty-five of the men of the 34th regiment of infantry, who were in garri- 
son in 1857, became goitrous during their stay. This regiment came from Perpignan, 
where the disease is not common. — Goitre et Cretinisme endemique, Paris, 1864, p. 56. 

* The substance of this paragraph is taken from the Bullettino del Club Alpino 
Italiano, No. 13, 1869. 

+ Blackie says that " Dr. Mottard mentions the case of a so-called goitre well near 
St. Julien in Maurienne, the water of which encrusted the trees in the vicinity with 
lime, and the use of which produced goitre in a couple of months ; and he mentions 
five young men who had voluntarily drunk its water, and produced goitre, in order 
to be free from military service." 

Chabrand, in the pamphlet already quoted, says, "It is deplorable that young 
people who have a swelling of the thyroid gland (in the Brianconnais), far from en- 
deavouring to get rid of it, occupy themselves only Avith making it bigger, in order 
to escape military service. Especially as the time of drawing for the conscription 
approaches, do they use every means supposed to be capable of producing goitre ; 
drink much water, take ' courses ' with burdens " (on their heads ?) " and tighten the 
cravat above the swelling. . . . From 1842 to 1847 inclusive, 91 in 1000 ob- 
tained exemption on account of goitre in the Department of the High Alps." The 
same writer places the number of goitrous persons in France at 450,000, and of 
cretins at 35,000 to 40,000. 


be immediately drafted into the army. Let them be formed into 
regiments by themselves, brigaded together, and commanded by 
cretins. Think what esprit de corps they would have ! Who could 
stand against them ? Who would understand their tactics ? He 
would save his iodine, and would render an act of justice to the 
non-goitred population. The subject is worthy of serious attention. 
If goitre is really an ally of cretinism, the sooner it is eradicated 
the better.* 

De Saussure substituted heat and stagnation of air as the cause 
of cretinism in the place of badness of water. But this was only 
giving up one unsatisfactory explanation for another equally un- 
tenable ; and since there are places far hotter and with pernicious 
atmospheres where the disease is unknown, while, on the other 
hand, there are situations in which it is common where the heat is 
not excessive, and which enjoy a freely circulating atmosphere, his 
assumption may be set aside as insufficient to account for the 
cretinism of the Valley of Aosta. And in regard to its particular 
case, it may be questioned whether there is anything more than an 
imaginary stagnation of air. For my own part, I attribute the op- 
pression which strangers say they feel, in the middle of the valley, 
not to stagnation of air but to absence of shadow, in consequence 
of the valley's course being east to west ; and believe, that if the 
force of the wind were observed and estimated according to the 
methods in common use, it would be found that there is no defi- 
ciency of motion in the air throughout the entire year. Several 
towns and villages, moreover, where cretins are most numerous, are 
placed at the entrances of valleys and upon elevated slopes, with 
abundant natural facilities for drainage- — free from malaria, which 

* "Goitrous persons, exempt from military service, remain in their native dis- 
tricts, marry, and thus cause the disease to become hereditary. If, on the contrary, 
they were drawn, and were sent into untainted departments (particularly those upon 
the sea-coast), they would return perfectly cured at the expiration of their term of 
service. Further, if goitrous persons were not exempt, a greater number of healthy 
individuals would remain at home, would marry, and would become parents of sound 
and vigorous children." — Guy and Dagand. 

chap. xvi. A PROBABLE CONJECTURE. 305 

has been suggested as accounting for the cretinism of the Khone 

Others have imagined that intemperance,* poor living, foul 
habits, and personal uncleanliness, sow the seeds of cretinism, and 
this opinion is entitled to full consideration. Intemperance of 
divers kinds is fruitful in the production of insanity,-)- and herding 
together in filthy dwellings, with little or no ventilation, may pos- 
sibly deteriorate physique, as much as extreme indulgence may the 
mind. These ideas are popularly entertained because cretins are 
more numerous amongst the lower orders than amongst the well-to-do 
classes. Yet they must, each and all, be regarded as inadequate to 
account for the disease, still less to explain its excess in the centre 
of the valley. For in these respects there is little or no distinction 
between it, the two extremities, and the neighbouring districts. 

A conjecture remains to be considered regarding the origin of 
cretinism, which is floating in the minds of many persons (although 
it is seldom expressed), which carries with it an air of probability 
that is wanting in the other explanations, and which is supported 
by admitted facts. 

The fertility of the Valley of Aosta is proverbial. It is covered 
with vineyards and corn-fields ; flocks and herds abound in it ; and 
its mineral resources are great. There is enough and to spare both 
for man and beast. There are poor in the valley, as there are 
everywhere, but life is so far easy that they are not driven to seek 
for subsistence in other places, and remain from generation to 

* An instance was mentioned to me, in 1869, of a small proprietor in the Valley 
of Aosta, who had a wife and several healthy children, having, successively, two good 
years with his vines. He ate and drank the proceeds up, instead of husbanding his 
resources, and in the two following years two cretin children were born to him. 
Several indifferently-good years have succeeded since then, he has been obliged to 
live frugally, and has had several more children, all of whom are healthy. The 
parents are apparently free from all taint of cretinism. 

t See Dr. Robert Christison On some of the Medico-legal Relations of the Habit of 
Intemperance, 1861 ; Dr. Edward Jarvis On the Causes of Insanity, 1851 ; and 
Reports of the Commissioners in Lunacy. 



generation rooted to their native soil. The large numbers of persons 
who are found in this valley having the same surnames is a proof 
of the well-known fact that there is little or no emigration from the 
valley, and that there is an indefinite amount of intermarriage be- 
tween the natives. It is conjectured that the continuance of these 
conditions through a long period has rendered the population more 
or less consanguineous, and that we see in cretinism an example, 
upon a large scale, of the evil effects of alliances of kindred. 

This explanation commends itself by reason of its general 
applicability to cretinism. The disease is commonly found in 
valleys, on islands,* or in other circumscribed areas, in which cir- 
culation is restricted, or the inhabitants are non-migratory ; and it 
is rare on plains, where communications are free. It will at once 
be asked, " Why, then, are not the tributary valleys of the valley of 
Aosta full of cretins ?" The answer is, that these lateral valleys 
are comparatively sterile, and are unable to support their popula- 
tion from their internal resources. Large numbers annually leave, 
and do not return, — some come back, having formed alliances else- 
where. There is a constant circulation and introduction of new 
blood. I am not aware that there are returns to show the extent 
to which this goes on, but the fact is notorious. - )* 

* Dr. Blackie gives the remarkable instance of "the island of Medworth (Nieder- 
worth ?), near Coblence, where the inhabitants hold no connection with those on 
shore, and consequently intermarry constantly with one another." This island, 
according to Dr. Blackie, had no less than 40 cretins out of a population of 750. 

t The case of the Val Sesia is not strictly in point, since it is not a tributary of 
the Val d'Aoste, but it may be quoted to show the extent to which this migration 
goes on. Mr. King says, " The population of the whole Val Sesia being estimated 
at 35,000, it is evidently utterly unable to maintain a tithe of that number from its 
own resources. The necessary result is, a regular periodical migration of all the able- 
bodied and active males, for varying lengths of time, into different parts of Europe. 
... A large number of the towns of Italy and France, as Genoa, Milan, Turin, and 
even Paris, are supplied with an immense influx of skilled labourers and artificers 
from these Vals. Some idea of the extent of this migration may be formed from the 
fact, that 8000 Val Sesians leave their homes annually, many of them for years. " — 
Italian Valleys of the Alps, p. 373. 

chap. xvi. POINTS IT EXPLAINS. 307 

This conjecture explains, far better than the other guesses, why 
it is that cretinism has so strong a hold upon the lower classes, 
while it leaves the upper ones almost untouched ; for the former 
are most likely to intermarry with people of their own district, 
whilst the latter are under no sort of compulsion in this respect. 
It gives a clue, too, to the reason of the particular intensity in the 
centre of the valley. The inhabitants of the lower extremity com- 
municate and mix with the untainted dwellers on the plains, whilst 
the conditions at the upper extremity approximate to those of the 
lateral valleys. Before this explanation will be generally received, 
a closer connection will have to be established between the assumed 
cause and the presumed effect* Accepting it, nevertheless, as a 
probable and reasonable one, let us now consider what prospect 
there is of checking the progress of the disease. 

It is, of course, impossible to change the habits of the natives 
of the valley of Aosta suddenly, and it would, probably, be very 
difficult to cause any large amount of emigration or immigration. 
In the present embarrassed condition of Italian finances there is 
very small chance of any measure of the sort being undertaken if 
it would involve a considerable expenditure. The opening of a 
railway from Ivrea to Aosta might possibly bring about, in a natural 
way, more movement than would be promoted by any legislation, 
and by this means the happiest effects might be produced.-f- 

There is little hope of practical results from attempts to cure 

* It may be mentioned, as a link in the evidence, that the Department of the Hautes 
Alpes (which contains a prodigious number of cretins) has, according to Chipault, a 
larger proportion of deaf and dumb persons to its population than any other depart- 
ment of France, viz. 1 in 419. The Department of the Basses Pyrenees comes next, 
with 1 in 677. 

t "M. Rambuteau (Prefet of the Department of the Simplon, under the first 
Napoleon) and M. Fodere assure us, that at the close of last century the number of 
cretins in the Canton Valais diminished to a very great degree. The former attri- 
buted this amelioration to the embankment of the Rhone, and the draining of the 
marshes ; to the clearing of the land ; and the consequent changes in the character of 
the inhabitants, who became more industrious and active, and less given to gluttony 
and drunkenness. The latter author rather imputed it to the opening of the great 


cretins. Once a cretin, you are always one.* The experiments of 
the late Dr. GuggenMhl demonstrated that some half-cietms may 
even become useful members of society, if they are taken in hand 
early in life ; but they did not show that the nature of the true or 
complete cretin could be altered.*!* He essayed to modify some of 
the mildest forms of cretinism, but did not strike at the root of the 
evil. If fifty Guggenbiihls were at work in the single valley of 
Aosta, they would take several generations to produce an appreci- 
able effect, and they would never extirpate the disease so long as 
its sources were unassailed. 

Nor will the house which has been built at Aosta J to contain 
200 cretin beggars do much, unless the inmates are restrained from 
perpetuating their own degradation. Even the lowest types of 
cretins may be procreative, and it is said that the unlimited liberty 
which is allowed to them has caused infinite mischief. A large 
proportion of the cretins who will be born in the next generation 
will undoubtedly be offspring of cretin parents. It is strange 
that self-interest does not lead the natives of Aosta to place their 
cretins under such restrictions as would prevent their illicit inter- 
course ; and it is still more surprising to find the Catholic Church 
actually legalising their marriage. There is something horribly 
grotesque in the idea of solemnising the union of a brace of idiots ; 

pass of the Simplon, and consequent more easy communication with other countries, 
the people being thus more incited to bestir themselves," etc. ; Blackie, p. 53. This 
testimony, from authors who held totally different opinions as to the origin of 
cretinism, is strongly confirmatory of the conjecture last advanced. 

* " Le cretinisme acheve est incurable ; l'etat physique et intellectuel des cre- 
tineux et des demi-cretins est susceptible d' amelioration par un traitement conven- 
able, des soins et l'education ; mais jamais on ne pourra faire d'eux des homines 
complets sous le rapport physique, moral, et intellectuel." — Guy and Dagand on 
Cretinisme dans le Departement de la Haute- Savoie. 

t Great expectations were raised some years ago by the reports of Dr. Guggenbuhl, 
and by those of visitors to his establishment on the Abendberg, at Interlachen ; but 
they have been disappointed, and the institution itself has been closed. 

X At the expense of some unknown charitable person. Besides this establish- 
ment, there is an hospital at Aosta, belonging to the order of St. Maurice et Lazare, 
containing twelve beds for cretin children. 


and since it is well known that the disease is hereditary, and 
develops in successive generations, the fact that such marriages 
are sanctioned is scandalous and infamous * 

The supply, therefore, is kept up from two sources. The first 
contingent is derived from apparently healthy parents ; the second, 
by inheritance from diseased persons. The origin of the first is 
obscure ; and before its quota can be cut off, or even diminished, 
the mystery which envelopes it must be dissipated. The remedy 
for the second is obvious, and is in the hands of the authorities — 
particularly in those of the clergy. Marriage must be prohibited 
to all who are affected ; the most extreme cases must be placed 
under restraint ; and cretins whose origin is illegitimate must be 
subject to disabilities. Nothing short of the adoption of these 
measures will meet the case. Useless it will be, so long as the 
primary sources of the disease are untouched, to build hospitals, to 
cleanse dwellings, to widen streets, or to attempt small ameliora- 
tions of the social circumstances of the natives. All of these things 
are good enough in themselves, but they are wholly impotent to 
effect a radical change. 

No satisfactory conclusion will be arrived at regarding the 
origin of cretinism until the pedigrees of a large number of examples 
have been traced. The numerical test is the only one which is 
likely to discover the reality. The necessary inquiries are beyond 
the powers of private persons, and their pursuit will be found suf- 

* It should be stated, that some of the clergy, at least, refuse to unite the worst 
kinds of cretins. I have heard it said, however, that all are not so particular ; and, 
again, others have told me that cretins are never legally married in the valley of 
Aosta. I imagine the truth to be, that some of the priests are scrupulous, and that 
others are not. The evidence of the natives upon this subject was so conflicting, 
that I applied to the Canon Carrel (of Aosta) for information. His answer was suffi- 
ciently explicit as to the general custom : — " II y a des cretins qui parlent avec une 
certaine intelligence, et qui sont capables d'apprendre quelques verites et quelques 
notions necessaires aux devoirs sociaux. Ceux-ci contractent quelquefois mariage. 
Quant a ceux qui ont l'intelligence tres obtuse, on ne leur permet pas le mariage, 
quoiqu'ils puissent encore engendrer ce qui tient plus de la loi naturelle que de la 
loi civile." 


ficiently difficult by official investigators. Great reluctance will be 
exhibited to disclose the information which should be sought, and 
the common cry will certainly be raised, that such scrutiny is with- 
out general advantage, and is painful to private feelings. But, in 
matters which affect mankind in general, individual feelings must 
always be subordinated to the public interest ; and if the truth is 
to be arrived at in regard to cretinism, the protests of the ignorant 
will have to be overridden. 

Hitherto, those who have written upon the disease have con- 
fined themselves, almost exclusively, to guessing at its origin ; and 
accurate data, from which sound deductions can be made, are, I 
believe, entirely wanting* We, however, are not in a position to 
taunt others with neglect of inquiry. Only a few months ago the 
House of Commons rejected, by a considerable majority, a proposi- 
tion that was designed to throw light upon the causes of idiocy ; 
and the opponents of the words which it was sought to introduce, 
although strictly parliamentary in their arguments and language, 
afforded a deplorable proof that cretinism is not unknown in our 
own country.-f- 

Cr^tinism is the least agreeable feature of the valley of Aosta, 
but it is, at the same time, the most striking. It has been touched 
upon for the sake of its human interest, and on account of those 
unhappy beings who — punished by the errors of their fathers — are 
powerless to help themselves ; — the first sight of whom produced 
such an impression upon the most earnest of all Alpine writers, 
that he declared, in a twice-repeated expression, its recollection 
would never be effaced from his memory. \ 

At some very remote period the valley of Aosta was occupied 

* For further information upon cretinism, see the works of Ferrus, Niepce, 
Fabre, Seguin, Nystrom, Morel, etc. 

t Debate on the Census Bill, on the motion by Sir John Lubbock to insert the 
words "whether married to a first cousin." The opponents of Sir J. Lubbock's motion 
should read Chipault Sur les Mariages Consanguines : Paris, 1863. 

J De Saussure, §§ 954, 1030. 


by a vast glacier, which flowed down its entire length from Mont 
JBlanc to the plain of Piedmont, remained stationary, or nearly so, 
at its month for many centuries, and deposited there enormous 
masses of debris. The length of this glacier exceeded 80 miles, 
and it drained a basin 25 to 35 miles across, bounded by the 
highest mountains in the Alps. It did not fill this basin. Neither 
the main stream nor its tributaries completely covered up the 
valleys down which they flowed. The great peaks still rose several 
thousand feet above the glaciers, and then, as now, shattered by 
sun and frost, poured down their showers of rocks and stones, in 
witness of which there are the immense piles of angular fragments 
that constitute the moraines of Ivrea * The wine which is drunk 
in that town is produced from soil that was borne by this great 
glacier from the slopes of Monte Eosa ; and boulders from Mont 
Blanc are spread over the country between that town and the Po, 
supplying excellent materials for building purposes, which were 
known to the Eomans, who employed them in some of their 
erections at Santhia.-(* 

The moraines around Ivrea are of extraordinary dimensions. 
That which was the lateral moraine of the left bank of the glacier 
is about thirteen miles long, and, in some places, rises to a height of 
2130 feet above the floor of the valley ! Professor Martins terms 
it " la plus elevee, la plus reguliere, et la mieux caracterisee des 
Alpes." | It is locally called la Serra. The lateral moraine of the 
right bank also rises to a height of 1000 feet, and would be deemed 
enormous but for the proximity of its greater comrade ; while the 
terminal moraines cover something like twenty square miles of 

The erratic nature of the materials of these great rubbish-heaps 
was distinctly pointed out by De Saussure (Voyages, §§ 974- 
978) ; their true origin was subsequently indicated by Messrs. 
Studer (1844) and Guyot (1847) ; and the excellent account of 

* See General Map. t lam indebted for this fact to Professor Gastaldi. 

X Revue des Deux Mondes. 


them which has recently been published by Professors Martins and 
Gastaldi leaves nothing to be desired either in accuracy or com- 
pleteness .* It is not my purpose, therefore, to enter into a descrip- 
tion of them, but only to discuss some considerations arising out of 
the facts which have been already mentioned. 

It has been proved beyond doubt that these gigantic mounds 
around Ivrea are actually the moraines of a glacier (now extinct) 
which occupied the valley of Aosta ; and it is indisputable that 
there are boulders from Mont Blanc amongst them. The former 
facts certify that the glacier was of enormous size, and the latter 
that it must have existed for a prodigious length of time. 

The height of la Serra indicates the depth of the glacier. It 
does not fix the depth absolutely, inasmuch as its crest must have 
been degraded during the thousands of years which have elapsed 
since the retreat of the ice ; and, further, it is possible that some 
portions of the surface of the glacier may have been considerably 
elevated above the moraine when it was at its maximum altitude. 
Anyhow, at the mouth of the valley of Aosta, the thickness of the 
glacier must have been at least 2000 feet, and its width, at that 
part, five miles and a quarter. 

The boulders from Mont Blanc, upon the plain below Ivrea, 
assure us that the glacier which transported them existed for a 
prodigious length of time. Their present distance from the cliffs 
from which they were derived is about 420,000 feet, and if we 
assume that they travelled at the rate of 400 feet per annum, their 
journey must have occupied them no less than 1055 years ! In all 
probability they did not travel so fast. But even if they were to 
be credited with a quicker rate of motion, the length of time which 
their journey must have taken will be sufficient for my purposes.f 

* Essai sur les terrains superficiels de la Vallee du Po, extrait du Bulletin de la 
Societe Geologique de France, 1850. 

+ See Forbes' Occasional Papers on the Theory of Glaciers, pp. 193-95, and 
Travels through the Alps of Savoy, 2d ed. pp. 86-7, for information bearing upon the 
mean annual motion of existing Alpine glaciers. In the former work an account is 
given of the discoveiy of the remains of a knapsack ten years after it had been 

chap. xvr. THE MORAINES OF IVREA. 313 

The space of 1055 years, however, by no means represents the 
duration of the life of the glacier of Aosta. It may have existed 
for immense periods both anterior and posterior to the journeys of 
the Mont Blanc boulders. The frontal terminal moraines, which 
stretch from Caluso to Viverone (a distance of more than ten miles), 
are evidence that the snout of the glacier remained stationary, or 
nearly so, for a length of time which must at least be estimated by 
centuries, and probably extended over thousands of years. These 
moraines constitute important chains of hills whose bases are 
several miles across, and which attain a height of more than a 
thousand feet ; and, as they were formed by the gradual and slow 
spreading out of the medial and lateral moraines, it is evident that 
they were not built up in a day. 

Moreover, when the glacier of Aosta shrank away from Ivrea, 
its retrogression may have been comparatively rapid, or it may 
have been conducted with extreme deliberation. But, under any 
circumstances, the extinction of such a tremendous body of ice 
must have extended over many years, and for a portion of that 
time a large part of the mass must have been advancing down the 
valley, although the snout of the glacier was retreating, and al- 
though the entire mass was diminishing in volume. If the time is 

dropped in a crevasse, at a horizontal distance of 4300 feet from the place at which it 
had been lost, showing an average annual motion of 430 feet. In the latter work 
there is a relation of the recovery of the remains of a ladder used by De Saussure, 
which had travelled about 13,00.0 feet in 44 years, or 295 feet per annum. Forbes 
says that the first of these two examples is better ascertained in all its particulars 
than the other. It should be observed that the knapsack in question made the 
descent of the well-known " ice-fall " of the Glacier de Talefre, and that there was a 
difference of level between the place at which it was lost and that at which it was 
found of 1145 feet ; that is to say, it descended one foot in every four that it advanced. 
This rapid descent undoubtedly accelerates the motion of the Glacier de Talefre. The 
town of Ivrea, on the other hand, is 768 feet (Ball) above the level of the sea, while 
Entreves (at the foot of Mont Blanc) is 4216 feet (Mieulet). So that the glacier 
which once spread over the sites of these two places (which are about 65 miles apart) 
descended by an average gradient of almost exactly 1 in 100. This moderate rate of 
inclination would as certainly tend to retard the motion of the glacier. 



considered which was consumed during this phase of its life, and 
the time which elapsed during its prolonged sojourn at Ivrea, and 
the time which passed before it attained its maximum dimensions, 
it must be conceded that the period of 1055 years was, in all pro- 
bability, only a small portion of the epoch during which the Valley 
of Aosta sustained the grinding of this enormous mass of ice. 

Let us confine ourselves to certainties. Here, then, was a 
glacier which flowed down the Valley of Aosta for more than a 
thousand years, having a thickness of 2000 feet,* a width of several 
miles, and a length of eighty miles. The existing glaciers of the 
Alps do not approach these dimensions, and even in the period 
when the ice-streams of Europe had so great an extension there 
were very few which surpassed them. Still fewer, perhaps, existed 
for so long a period, and there are probably only one or two — such 
as the ancient glacier of the Ehone — which have received as much 
attention and have been as carefully studied. For these reasons it 
seems to me to be more advantageous to refer to it than to instances 
more imperfectly known and more open to doubt ; and I have 
selected it, on account of these reasons, as a valley which should 
afford strong testimony in support of the theories which assert that 
the valleys and many of the lake-basins of the Alps have been 
excavated by glaciers. 

The latter of these two theories was communicated to the 
Geological Society, by Professor Ramsay, on March 5, 1862.-f It 
received much attention, and excited much criticism. I am not 
aware that Professor Ramsay replied to any of his critics, excepting 
Sir Roderick Murchison and Sir Charles Lyell. But in answer to 
the objections which were raised against the reception of his theory 

* This is understating the case. The thickness of the glacier exceeded 2000 feet 
at the mouth of the valley, "where it had a width of 5| miles. In the valley itself, 
where the width was less, the thickness appears to have been considerably more than 
2000 feet. 

f Professor Ramsay's paper was printed in the Quarterly Journal Geol. Soc, August 
1862. The germs of the Professor's theory are to be found in his Old Glaciers of 
Switzerland and North Wales, 1860, pp. 86, 107, 109, 110. 

chap. xvi. RAMSAY S EROSION THEORY. 315 

by these distinguished geologists, he published two papers in the 
Philosophical Magazine ; * and, in endeavouring to present my 
reader with a resume of the Professor's views, I shall draw from 
these papers as freely as from his original memoir, for they afford 
amplification and elucidation of his argument, -f- 

Professor Kamsay said, in opening his case, " There is no point in 
physical geography more difficult to account for than the origin of 
most lakes. When thought about at all, it is easy to see that lakes 
are the result of the formation of hollows, a great proportion of 
which are true rock-basins, that is to say, in hollows entirely sur- 
rounded by solid rocks, the waters not being retained by loose 
detritus." J It is in reference to such ones alone that his theory is 
propounded. He then went on to state, in especial reference to 
lakes of this class in the Alps — 

§ 1. " That the theory of an area of special subsidence for each 
lake is untenable. 

§ 2. That none of them lie in lines of gaping fracture (rents and 

§ 3. That none of them occupy simple synclinal basins formed 
by the mere disturbance of the strata after the close of the Miocene 
epoch." § 

And he therefore argued that they must have been produced by 
erosion ; but 

§ 4. They do not lie in hollows of common watery erosion, nor 
can they be effects of marine denudation. 

He consequently concluded, "If we have disposed of these 
hypotheses for the formation of such hollows, what is left ? 

§ 5. The only remaining agent is the denuding power of ice."|| 
He then proved that, in the Alps and elsewhere, 

* October 1864, and April 1865. 

f I shall also occasionally refer to his Physical Geology and Geography of Great 
Britain, and to Old Glaciers of Switzerland, etc. 

% Physical Geology and Geography of Great Britain, p. 86. 

§ Proc. Geol. Soc, Aug. 1862, p. 200. || Physical Geology and Geography, p. 88. 


§ 6. " Each of the lakes lies in an area once covered by a vast 
glacier." * 

And went on to reason — 

§ 7. " If a glacier can round, polish, and cover with striatums the 
rocks over which it passes — if, flowing from its caverns, it can 
charge rivers thickly with the finest mud, then it can wear away 
its rocky floor and sides." f 

§ 8. He assumed that glaciers are competent to produce lake- 
basins, and that they have done so by scooping out softer parts of 
the country, leaving hollows surrounded by a framework of harder 
rocks ; "but perhaps more generally they (the rock-basins) were 
formed by the greater thickness and weight, and consequently pro- 
portionally greater grinding pressure of glacier-ice in particular 
areas," J "the situations of which may have been determined by 
accidental circumstances, the clue to which is lost, from our 
inability perfectly to reconstruct the original forms of the 
glaciers." § 

The particular manner in which he supposed the great lake-basins 
of the Alps were formed was as follows : — 

§ 9. " It will be evident that when the general inclination of a 
valley was comparatively steep, a glacier could have had no oppor- 
tunity of cutting for itself any special basin-shaped hollows. Its 
course, with a difference, is like that of a torrent. But in a flat- 
bottomed part of a valley, or in a comparative plain that lies at the 
base of a mountain range, the case is not the same. For instance, 
to take an extreme case, if a glacier tumble over a slope of 45°, no 
one would dream of the ice-flow producing any special effect, except 
that in the long run, the upper edge of the rock that forms the 
cataract being worn away, its average angle would be lowered. 
And so of minor slopes ; if the ice flowing fast (for a glacier) 
rendered the rocky surface underneath unequal, such inequalities 
could not become great and permanent ; for the rapidly-flowing ice 

* Proc. Geo!. Soc, p. 199. t Phil. Mag., October 1864, p. 303. 

J Proc Choi. Soc, 1802, p. 188. § Ibid. p. 200. 

chap. xvi. TYND ALL'S THEORY. 317 

would attack the projecting parts with greater power and effect than 
the minor hollows, and so preserve an approximate uniformity, or 
an average angle of moderate inclination. But when a monstrous 
glacier descended into a comparative plain, or into a low flat valley, 
the case was different. There, to use homely phrases, the ice had 
time to select soft places for excavation, and there, if from the 
confluence of large glaciers, or for other reasons, the downward 
pressure of the ice was of extra amount, the excavating effect, I 
contend, must have been unusually great in special areas, and have 
resulted in the formation of rock-bound hollows."* 

He accounted for the deep parts of the lakes by supposing 
that — 

§ 10. " The grinding action lasted after a glacier had retired 
above the position of the present lake-barrier, so that the waste of 
the rocky floor being long continued, by degrees the glacier wore 
out a depression deeper and deeper, till, on its final retirement, 
the space once occupied by ice became filled with the water 
drainage of the valley/'")* 

The shallowness at their mouths was thus explained : — 

§ 11. As the glaciers "progressed and melted, the ice must 
have been thinner, and must have exercised less erosive power 
than where it was thick, whence the gradual slope of the bottom of 
these lakes towards their outflows."]: 

§ 12. " Therefore I have been forced to the conclusion, from a 
critical examination of many of the lakes in and around the Alps, 
that their basins were scooped out by the great glaciers of the 
glacial period." § 

The astonishment which Professor Eamsay's theory created had 
not subsided when Professor Tyndall brought forward opinions of 
an even bolder character, || and avowed his belief that the valleys of 

* Phil. Mag., October 1864, p. 305. $ Phil. Mag., April 1865, p. 298. 

t Old Glaciers, pp. 104-5. § Phys. Geol. and Geog. p. 90. 

|| Phil. Mag. Sept. 1862. 


the Alps had been (entirely?) excavated by glaciers ! His summing 
up was as follows : — 

" That such an agent was competent to plough out the Alpine valleys 
cannot, I think, be doubted ; while the fact that during the ages which have 
elapsed since its disappearance the ordinary denuding action of the atmo- 
sphere has been unable, in most cases, to obliterate even the superficial traces 
of the glaciers, suggests the incompetence of that action to produce the same 
effect. That the glaciers have been the real excavators seems to me far more 
probable than the supposition that they merely filled valleys which had been 
previously formed by water denudation. Indeed the choice lies between these 
two suppositions : shall we assume that glaciers filled valleys which were 
previously formed by what would undoubtedly be a weaker agent ? or shall 
we conclude that they have been the excavators which have furrowed the up- 
lifted land with the valleys which now intersect it 1 I do not hesitate to 
accept the latter view." — Phil. Mag., Sept. 1862, p. 172. 

Except for the character of the magazine in which Dr. 
Tyndali's paper appeared, it might have been supposed that he was 
poking fun at his readers and at Professor Eamsay. For although 
to some persons he might have seemed to be supporting the views 
of the Professor, he was, in reality, advancing opinions which were 
directly opposed to them. Professor Eamsay promptly repudiated 
this doubtful extension of his theory. Indeed, he could hardly do 
otherwise, after having spoken of "the well-ascertained fact, that 
previous to the Tertiary glacial epoch, most of the grander contours of 
hill and valley were in Britain (and elsewhere in Europe and 
America), nearly the same as now!'* He now repeated the same 
statement in slightly different words. " The evidence is imperfect ; 
but such as it is, it gives much more than a hint that the large 
valleys were in their main features approximately as deep as now, 
before they were filled with ice;"-)* and, further, he produced in 
evidence a potent reason for declining to believe that the Valley of 
Aosta had been excavated by glaciers. This latter passage will pre- 
sently be quoted at length, on account of its importance. \ 

For a time Dr. Tyndall made no sign in reply, but, in October 

* Old Glaciers of Wales, p. 94. t Phil. Mag. Nov. 1862, p. 379. 

X See pp. 341-2. 

chap. xvi. CONTRADICTIONS. 3 1 9 

1864, he communicated another paper to the Philosophical Magazine, 
in which he modified his views to a certain extent (and made the 
important admission that it was perhaps impossible to say whether 
water or ice had produced the greatest amount of erosion), although 
upon the whole he adhered to his former assertions. This paper 
contained one remarkable passage ; remarkable, because it partly 
showed the workings of its author's mind, and because it was, ap- 
parently, intended to controvert Professor Eamsay's theory. It 
was as follows : — 

" On the higher slopes and plateaus — in the region of cols — the power 
(of glaciers) is not fully developed ; but lower down tributaries unite, erosion 
is carried on with increased vigour, and the excavation gradually reaches a 
maximum. Lower still the elevations diminish and the slopes become more 
gentle ; the cutting power gradually relaxes, and finally the eroding agent quits 
the mountains altogether, and the grand effects which it produced in the earlier 
portions of its course entirely disappear."* — Phil. Mag., Oct. 1864, p. 264. 

That is to say, precisely in the situations where Professor Earn- 
say required glaciers to produce the greatest effects, Dr. Tyndall 
asserted they produced none whatever ! Professor Kanisay did not 
allow much time to elapse before he contradicted these statements 

" Every physicist," said he, " knows that when such a body as glacier-ice 
descends a slope, the direct vertical pressure of the ice will be proportional to 
its thickness and weight and the angle of the slope over which it flows. If 
the angle be 5°, the weight and erosive power of a given thickness of ice will 
be so much, if 10° so much less, if 20° less still, till at length, if we may 
imagine the fall to be over a vertical wall of rock, the pressure against the 
wall (except accidentally) will be nil. But when the same vast body of ice has 
reached the 'plain, then motion and erosion would cease, were it not for pres- 
sure from behind (excepting what little motion forward and sideways might 
be due to its own weight). This pressure, however, must have been constant 
as long as supplies of snow fell on the mountains, and therefore the inert 
mass in the plain was constantly urged onwards ; and because of its vertical 
pressure its direct erosive power would necessarily be proportional to its thickness, 
and greater than when it lay on a slope ; for it would grate across the rocks, as 

* The italics are not in the original. 


it were, unwillingly and by compulsion, instead of finding its way onwards 
more or less by virtue of gravity. Indeed the idea is forced on the mind, that the 
sluggish ice would have a tendency to heap itself up just outside the mouth of the 
valley, and there attain an unusual thickness, thus exercising, after its descent, an 
extra erosive power." * — Phil. Mag., April 1865, p. 287. 

Professor Tyndall does not appear to have found the reply con- 
vincing. He is reported to have said at the last Birmingham 
meeting of the British Association, " that he was convinced that 
the glaciers of the Alps were competent to scoop out the valleys of 
the Alps," -f and I am unaware that his opinions have undergone 
any alteration since that time. In 1869 he gave a hard side-blow 
to Professor Kamsay, in Maemillanh Magazine, by proving that 
some existing Alpine glaciers exercise little or no erosion upon 
their beds near and at their terminations (snouts), because at such 
places they are almost stationary. % 

It is impossible to criticise these two theories at the same 
moment. Both of them agree in attributing enormous powers of 
excavation to glaciers, but they disagree totally and completely as 
to the modus operandi by which the effects were produced. They 
differ even in their general conclusions. One asserts that the 
greatest effects were produced upon the plains, and that very little 
was done amongst the mountains ; whilst the other declares that 
the mountains owe their actual forms to the carving of glaciers, 
and that the plains did not suffer at all ! There is no wonder that 
the unenlightened public enquired, " Who shall decide between the 
disagreements of these doctors ?" But it is surprising to find 
numerous persons accepting as gospel truth the contradictory dieta 
of these eminent men, and speaking and writing as if it were 

* Comparison of the sentences placed in italics, with the preceding one from Dr. 
Tyndall, will show how irreconcilable were the opinions of these two writers. 

+ Birmingham Daily Post, September 13, 1865. 

X It must not be understood that anything of the nature of a controversy was 
carried on, in the magazines cited, by the two Professors. They did not refer to each 
other by name ; but it was impossible to read the passages which have been quoted, 
without feeling that they were intended to be replies to objections on the other side. 


established that lake-basins and mountain-valleys have been 
excavated by glaciers. 

It is not requisite to decide between all the differences contained 
in these two theories, in order to arrive at a tolerably correct 
judgment upon the general conclusions. Professor Eamsay, for 
example, attributes the production of the greatest effects to the 
weight of glaciers. Professor Tyndall, on the other hand, assigns 
most power to the motion. I shall ignore these points, because I have 
no data from which to arrive at a satisfactory decision, and because 
it is not necessary for them to be mixed up with a discussion of the 
question, Were the valleys of the Alps excavated by glaciers ? For 
the consideration of this subject, let us now return to the Valley of 

The town of Ivrea is placed at the mouth of, but not actually 
within the valley, and several miles of flat, dusty road have to be 
traversed before it is entered. Upon this portion of the country 
civilisation is doing its best to efface the traces of the glacial 
period. Cultivation of the soil disturbs all deposits, and the 
hammers of the masons destroy the erratics. After quitting 
Ivrea, almost the first object of interest is the castle of Montalto, 
perched on a commanding crag, nearly in the centre of the valley. 
Thence, from Settimo Vittone up to the foot of the existing glaciers 
of the range of Mont Blanc, there are traces of glacier-action upon 
each hand. The road need not be quitted to seek for them ; — they 
are everyivhere. I refer especially to the rocks in situ. The rock- 
forms called roches moutonnees are universally distributed, and it is 
needless, at the present moment, to point to any in particular. 
Although of varying degrees of resistancy, they have, upon the 
whole, stood the weathering remarkably well of the thousands of 
years which have elapsed since the glacier covered them. The 
floor of the valley, generally speaking, has not been lowered since 
that time, by the combined agencies of sun, frost, and water, to any 
appreciable extent. The forms which the roches moutonnees present 
to-day, are the forms which they presented, perhaps, ten thousand 



years ago. Many of those which are freely exposed to the atmo- 
sphere retain a high polish and fine striations. If the soil were to 
be removed that covers the natter portions of the valley we, should 
doubtless find higher polish, and still finer striations. Nevertheless, 
those which are visible remain so perfect, that it is certain weathering 
has done exceedingly little to alter their contours, and we may 
argue regarding them as if their icy covering had been but just 
removed. This point is of no small importance ; and, it seems to me, 
it may be demonstrated from the very contours of these glaciated 
rocks, that the valley was not excavated by glaciers, and indeed, that 
it was eroded by glaciers only to a very limited extent. 

For the forms which are called moutonntfes preponderate very 
largelv. The rocks which I have ventured to term roches niveUes, 
are comparatively rare,* although they are sufficiently numerous to 
show that the valley was subjected to severe grinding for a great 
length of time. They are found upon the floor of the valley, or in 
places where it narrows, or upon the lower sides of little ravines 
(now watercourses) which the glacier had to cross, into which it 
was forced down when in the act of crossing, and out of which it 
escaped by mounting the opposite bank. In brief, they are found 
precisely where they should be found. In those places where the 
thickness of the ice was greatest, and where the motion was 
(probably) quickest ; where the glacier was compressed laterally, 
so that its power was distributed over a smaller area of rock-surface ; 
and where erosion had produced ruts into which the glacier was 
pressed down, and out of which it could only extricate itself by a 
severe struggle. 

Throughout the valley, in conjunction with the roches mou- 
tonnees, there are innumerable angular rock-surfaces which seem 
never to have been abraded by glacier. These lee-sides^ are found 
right up to the bases of the existing glaciers. That is to say, 
they are found in spots which were not only covered by ice during 
the whole of the period in which the ancient glacier of Aosta 

* See p. 146. t See p. 145. 


extended to Ivrea, but have been covered by it in quite recent 
times. Glacier moved over them, probably, ages before the great 
glacier rilled the valley ; and, for aught we know to the contrary, it 
has done the same almost ever since. Yet, to all appearance, ice 
has never touched the lee-sides, or, if it has done so, it has been done 
so tenderly, that the marks have been subsequently obliterated. 

Now, whilst it may readily be admitted that atmospheric action 
is capable of completely effacing feeble traces of glacier-erosion,* 
we cannot in the present instances admit any more. The contiguous 
surfaces to the lee-sides which are highly polished and bearing fine 
striations, show that sun, frost, and water, have done very little 
upon them since the ice departed. It would be absurd to suppose 
that these powers have been able to rub out all traces of ice-action 
(if the traces were other than very feeble) in one square yard, 
when in the next, upon the same rock, they have been unable even 
to roughen the surface, or get rid of fine scratches. It is doubly im- 
possible to suppose that the rock-surfaces were uniformly ground 
down by ice, and that all the inequalities seen at the present time 
are the result of subsequent decomposition. I do not think any 
one will have the hardihood to assert the contrary. 

It is stated, therefore — 1. That the glacier-eroded rocks in the 
Valley of Aosta are chiefly characterised by convexity, and princi- 
pally belong to the class termed movionnees. 2. That there are 
examples of roches nivelees in the valley ; that they are rare in com- 
parison with the roches moutonnees ; and that they are mostly found 
upon the floor of the valley, or in places where it is narrowest, or 
where unusual obstructions have occurred. 3. That there are in- 
numerable angular rock-surfaces (intermingled with these glaciated 
surfaces upon the floor and on the sides of the valley) which cannot 
have been produced since glacier covered the rocks. For the 
bearing of these facts upon Dr. Tyndall's theory, I must now re- 
capitulate from Chapter VI. 

In the preliminary remarks at pp. 142-3, after appealing to 

* Or, given sufficient time, of destroying highly-glaciated surfaces. 


Studer's observation that glacier-erosion was distinguished by the 
production of convex forms, I proceeded to show that such forms 
naturally resulted from glacier working upon surfaces which had 
been antecedently broken up by diverse actions ; and pointed out 
that when glacier-action was long continued, the obliteration of all 
angular surfaces, and of almost all curves, was inevitable. I con- 
cluded, therefore (and am prepared to accept all the responsibility 
which attaches to the conclusion), that the convexity of roches mou- 
tonne'es was to be regarded as a proof that no great amount of glacier- 
erosion had occurred ; that rock-surfaces with a small degree of 
convexity, which had obviously been glaciated, indicated a greater 
erosion ; and that the degree of flatness bore a direct relation 
to the amount of power which had been employed. And further, 
that when unworn, angular rock-surfaces were found in the imme- 
diate vicinity of glaciated rocks, they were to be regarded as addi- 
tional and confirmatory evidence that the depth of matter taken 
away by the glacier could not have been important, unless it could 
be shown that the angularity was due to subsequent operations. 

Applying these conclusions to the case of the Valley of Aosta, 
we find — 1. That as recent denudation has been unequal, through- 
out the valley, to obliterate polish and fine striations on the rocks, 
we are unable to believe that the vast number of angular surfaces 
which are found in contiguity to the abraded ones can possibly 
have been produced subsequently to the retreat of the glacier. 
2. Their existence in connection with innumerable convex glaciated 
surfaces, throughout the valley, is irrefutable evidence that the 
valley was not excavated by glaciers. 3. The comparative scarcity 
of roches nivetees, combined with the other evidence, affords a strong- 
presumption that the so-called excavation has not amounted, through- 
out the valley, to more than a very few feet of depth. 

Hitherto, I have chiefly appealed to the bed (or floor) of the 
valley. Almost equally stubborn facts are obtainable from the slopes 
of its bounding mountains. If the valley had been excavated by 
glaciers, very emphatic traces would have been left behind every- 


where, — above as well as below. I contend that if the entire valley 
had been excavated by glaciers, the surface of the rocks would have 
been as smooth as glass, from one end to the other, when the ice 
retired * Now, I have frankly admitted (note to p. 323) that, given 
sufficient time, sun, frost, and water, are capable of destroying 
highly glaciated surfaces ; but I will not admit the possibility of 
such perfection of glaciation as I have just indicated being com- 
pletely effaced (say, at heights exceeding 9000 feet), while a 
few yards lower down ice-marks are seen, and seen every- 
where. For it is well known to all who have scrambled 
amongst the Alps, that those mountains are not glaciated from 
summit to base. The marks of the great glaciers of the olden 
time extend up to a certain height, and then they cease. This is 
the case throughout the Alps generally. The limit of glaciation is 
usually placed at about 9000 feet. Above this limit the moun- 
tains are more or less rugged and angular. Below it, the traces of 
the glacial period are more or less apparent. Above it, you seek in 
vain for glacier-eroded rocks.~f* Below it, they are found almost 
everywhere. Here is the evidence of Agassiz upon this point :■ — 

" Every mountain-side in the Alps is inscribed with these ancient charac- 
ters, recording the level of the ice in past times. . . . Thousands of feet 
above the present level of the glacier, far up towards their summits, we find 
the sides of the mountains furrowed, scratched, and polished, in exactly the 
same manner as the surfaces over which the glaciers pass at present. These 
marks are as legible and clear to one who is familiar with glacial traces 
as are hieroglyphics to the Egyptian scholar ; indeed, more so, — for he not 
only recognizes their presence, but reads their meaning at a glance. Above 
the line at which these indications cease, the edges of the rocks are sharp and 
angular, the surface of the mountain rough, unpolished, and absolutely devoid of 

* See p. 152. 
f It is not, of course, meant that there are no traces of glacier-action above 9000 
feet, upon rocks bounding, or surrounded by, the existing glaciers. There are, for 
example, many islands of rock in the Alps, surrounded by glacier, at elevations con- 
siderably exceeding 9000 feet, which are highly glaciated. I refer to those moun- 
tains which are away from the existing glaciers, and which have never been influenced 
by them. 


all those marks resulting from glacial action.* On the Alps these traces are 
visible to a height of nine thousand feet." — Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 1864. 

If these facts mean anything, they mean that the great glaciers 
of the glacial period did not extend above this limit. For I cannot 
suppose that Dr. Tyndall is a believer in the childish notion of 
the late Dollfus-Ausset, that glaciers are, and were, permanently 
frozen to the rocks at heights exceeding 9000 feet, and therefore do 
not, and did not, erode them!*f- If that idea is correct, why are 
there any crevasses at heights exceeding 9000 feet? In what manner 
is the continuity of the glaciers maintained, if their lower portions 
move down, whilst their upper ones are immovable? Dr. Tyndall 
is far too well acquainted with glaciers to believe any such absurdity. 
I maintain that this evidence (although scarcely so conclusive 
as that which has preceded it) affords strong grounds for believing 
that the valleys of the Alps were never completely filled by glaciers, 
and therefore that the valleys were not excavated by glaciers. 

The evidence from the mouths of the valleys of the Alps is not 
less hostile to Dr. Tyndall's theory. For, observe, 1. The glaciers 
existed for a briefer period at the mouths of the valleys than at 
their upper portions. 2. The glaciers must have moved there, as a 
rule, at a slower rate than at the upper portions ; because, as a rule, 
the gradients at the mouths were more moderate, and frequently 
(as in the case of the Valley of Aosta), there was a dead level. 3. 
The glaciers had usually received, before arriving at the mouths of 
the valleys, the whole of their most important affluents, and must 
have been rapidly diminishing in volume. The conclusion which 
is inevitable from these considerations is, that the glaciers must 
have exercised less erosion at the mouths of the valleys than at 
their upper portions ; and this conclusion agrees very well with 
that arrived at by Dr. Tyndall himself, namely — " Lower still the 
elevations diminish and the slopes become more gentle ; the cutting 

* The italics are not in the original. 

t See Materialise pour V etude des Glaciers, vol. i. part iii. p. 11. The same idea 
is repeated in many other places in the same work. 


power gradually relaxes, and finally the eroding agent quits the 
mountains altogether, and the grand effects which it produced in 
the earlier portion of its course entirely disappear."* But does this 
conclusion agree with the fact that the valleys are usually wider 
— much wider — at their mouths than elsewhere, and that the beds 
of the valleys at their mouths are at a lower level than at the upper 
extremities ? If the glaciers had flowed up the valleys, these facts 
might be explicable ; but they are unintelligible if the valleys were 
excavated by glaciers which flowed down them. 

The mouths, the beds, the walls, and the terminations of the 
valleys, and the slopes of the mountains which bound them, pro- 
claim alike that the present modelling of the Alps has been only 
slightly modified by glaciers. It would, however, be unreasonable 
to conclude, because such is the case, that glaciers are incompetent 
to excavate valleys under any circumstances ; and, before taking 
leave of Professor Tyndall, it is only due to him to examine his 
opinions upon the subject. He is, like Professor Kamsay, a great 
believer in soft places. He believes that glaciers not only erode 
soft rocks more rapidly than hard ones (which is a reasonable 
belief), but he considers that all the chief inequalities which are now 
seen in valleys that have been eroded by glaciers are due to the 
greater or less resistancy of the rocks to the action of the ice. " Were 
its bed uniform in the first instance, the glacier would, in my 
opinion, produce the inequalities." "f* Now, I could not differ greatly 
from Dr. Tyndall, if he were to say that glaciers must erode soft 
rocks more rapidly than hard ones, and that they might, in conse- 
quence, ultimately produce inequalities, if set to work upon a smooth 
surface containing both hard and soft places. But he goes far 
beyond this. It is necessary for him to explain how it comes to 
pass that such masses are left behind as that at Montalto, at the 
entrance of the Valley of Aosta, or those upon which the castles of 
Sion stand. The valleys of Aosta and of the Ehone, he says, have 
been excavated by glaciers, yet here are these obstinate crags stand- 

* Phil. Mag., Oct. 1864, p. 264. f Phil. Mag., Oct. 1864, p. 266. 


ing in the very centres of the valleys. They must have been ex- 
posed to the full force of the glaciers ; nay, the ice-streams were 
evidently split by them, and had to flow upon either side and over 
them. " Assuredly," says Dr. Tyndall, " a glacier is competent to 
remove such barriers, and they probably have been ground down 
in some cases thousands of feet. But being of a more resisting 
material than the adjacent rock, they were not ground down to the 
level of that rock." * Examination of such masses has led me to 
form a very different opinion. The contours of their rocks, upon 
the sides opposed to the direction of the flow of the glaciers, are 
frequently flatter, and suggestive of a greater degree of abrasion, 
than the adjacent and lower rocks. They have been lowered more, 
not less, than their surroundings. Yet the indications are, as a rule, 
that these obtrusive crags have only been lowered to a trifling ex- 
tent, and, most certainly, not thousands of feet. Still, let us sup- 
pose, for the sake of argument, that the adjacent rocks were actually 
softer, and were ground down a hundred or more feet upon each 
side of the hard crags, which, in consequence, became that amount 
above the level of their surroundings. The adjacent rocks would 
then, according to my opinion, have been prodigiously eroded ; all 
their angles would have been obliterated ; they would have become 
exceeding flat, and such forms as they would present would be 
characteristic of a high degree of glaciation. Yet we find that such 
is not the case. The rocks adjacent to the crags are frequently less 
flat, less abraded than the crags,*)* and, to all appearance, their sur- 
faces have not been lowered more than a very few feet. The con- 
clusions are inevitable in such cases that the adjacent rocks have 
suffered less than the obtrusive crags, and that any real or imagi- 
nary softness of rock has not assisted glacier-erosion to the extent 
assumed by Dr. Tyndall. 

The enormous amount of excavation assumed by Dr. Tyndall is 
further accounted for by him upon the supposition that glaciers 

* Phil Mag., Oct. 1864, p. 266. 
+ I do not know an instance where the reverse is the case. 


are competent to " root masses (of rock) bodily away."* He seems 
to feel that mere grinding, rasping, and polishing would not be 
equal to the production of valleys, thousands of feet in depth, in any 
reasonable length of time, and so invokes this quicker process to 
get himself out of the difficulty. When and how Dr. Tyndall be- 
came possessed of this extraordinary idea I have no means of tell- 
ing. Comparison of the following passages would lead one to sup- 
pose that it was acquired posterior to the publication of his 
Glaciers of the Alps : — 

" The lighter debris is scattered 
by the winds far and wide over the 
glacier, sullying the purity of its 
surface. Loose shingle rattles at in- 
tervals down the sides of the moun- 
tains, and falls upon the ice where it 
touches the rocks. Large rocks are 
continually let loose, which come 
jumping from ledge to ledge, the 
cohesion of some being proof against 
the shocks which they experience ; 
while others, when they hit the 
rocks, burst like bomb-shells, and 
shower their fragments upon the ice. 
Thus the glacier is incessantly loaded 
along its borders with the ruins of 
the mountains which limit it." — 
Glaciers of the Alps, Chapter on 
Moraines, p. 263 (1860). 

" In the vast quantities of 
moraine-matter which cumbers many 
of the valleys we have also sugges- 
tions as to the magnitude of the 
erosion which has taken place. This 
moraine-matter, moreover, is only in 
part derived from the falling of rocks 
from the eminences upon the glacier ; 
it is also in great part derived from the 
grinding and ploughing-out of the 
glacier itself This accounts for the 
magnitude of many of these ancient 
moraines, which date from a period 
when almost all the mountains were 
covered with ice and snow, and when 
consequently the quantity of moraine- 
matter derived from the naked crests 
cannot have been considerable." t — 
Phil. Mag., Oct. 1864, p. 271. 

It has been already shown (pp. 325-6) that the notion that the 
mountains were completely covered by glaciers (or anything like 
completely covered) is erroneous, and the evidence which leads to 
that conclusion is clearly supported by the fact that a great propor- 
tion (I think it may be said the great proportion) of the materials 
are angular which compose the moraines of the past, as well as of 

Phil. Mag., Oct. 1864, p. 265. 


f See p. 245. 


the existing glaciers of the Alps.* Their angularity is a certain 
proof that they were borne upon the glaciers, and were not trans- 
ported under them. For, if they had been forced along underneath 
the ice, they would most certainly have become, at the least, sub- 
angular, or rounded or scratched. It is well known that this is 
what takes place at the present time in regard to debris under- 
neath glaciers, and that the pebbles and boulders which are 
moved along in such a way acquire a character of their own 
which is unmistakable. The moraines, then, do not support, but 
clearly reject, Dr. Tyndall's notion. Nor is the evidence of the 
rocks from which he supposes that masses have been "rooted 
away" less distinctly against him. How could these masses be 
broken away without angular surfaces being left behind ? and how 
is it that in those places where glacier-action has been most power- 
ful angular surfaces are most ivanting ? Dr. Tyndall appeals to 
the magnitude of the old glaciers, and to the enormous pressure 
which they exerted upon their beds, to explain his " rooting-away," 
as confidently as if his case was completely proved thereby. Yet, 
in those places where glaciers are and have been the greatest, and 
where their pressure has been the most tremendous, and exerted 
for the greatest length of time, we find the rocks which have been 
worked upon are the most highly polished, the most flat in contour, 
and the most devoid of all angularity whatsoever ! 

It is clear, therefore, that the theory of " soft places," as applied 
by Dr. Tyndall, cannot be sustained, and does not in the least 
assist us to determine how far glaciers are competent to excavate 
valleys. The idea is plausible that soft rocks must suffer under 
the grinding of glaciers more rapidly than hard ones, and may be 
admitted ; but it will be shown presently that there are things to 
be said upon the other side. The notion that glaciers root away 

* I am, of course, aware that there are glacial deposits in Great Britain, and else- 
where, in which sub-angular and scratched stones are largely in excess of those which 
are simply angular. The manner in which such deposits were formed is not yet 
clearly understood. 


masses of rock incessantly, or to any great extent, must be unhesi- 
tatingly rejected as being opposed to reason and to facts.* How- 
ever, " confining the action of glaciers to the simple rubbing away 
of the rocks, and allowing them sufficient time to act, it is not a 
matter of opinion, but a physical certainty, that they " would pro- 
duce cavities or depressions of one sort or another. Given eternity, 
glaciers might even grind out valleys of a peculiar kind. Such 
valleys would bear remarkably little resemblance to the valleys of 
the Alps. They might be interesting, but they would be miserably 
unpicturesque. The hob-nailed boots of the Alpine tourists would be 
useless iu them ; we should have to employ felt slippers or skates. 
I have advanced only a few of the more obvious objections to 
Dr. Tyndall's theory. Many others might be urged, for the posi- 
tion taken up by the Doctor has been from the first an essen- 
tially false one, and has permitted him to be attacked from nearly 
every direction. Had he confined himself to stating that glaciers 
were competent to excavate valleys, without offering examples, and 
without attempting to show how they would do it, many persons 
might have differed from him, but would have done so chiefly in 
degree. The declaration that the valleys of the Alps had been so 
excavated was a statement of a much more advanced and of a 
much graver nature, and I cannot but think that in making it Dr. 
Tyndall has materially retarded the progress of knowledge. There 
are many persons, I am convinced, who would learn with satisfaction 
that he repudiates a doctrine which can be disproved in a multi- 
tude of ways, and which is flatly contradicted by a host of facts. 

Whatever may be the popular opinion about Professor Eam- 
say's theory regarding the formation of rock-basins, its author is 
entitled to credit for having attempted to grapple with an acknow- 
ledged difficulty, and to be congratulated upon the number of valu- 

* It has been already admitted (§ 5, p. 145) that the minor asperities of rocks 
suffer, and may be actually crushed or scraped away. That this happens cannot be 
doubted, but this (comparatively) speedily comes to an end. Tt is mere brushing of 
the surface preparatory to polishing. 


able facts which he has elicited. Exceptions can be taken to it, of 
course. It may be asked, at the very outset, Is it absolutely 
necessary to accept this dogma that the only remaining agent is the 
denuding power of ice ? Have we arrived at the end of all know- 
ledge? And the cogency of the reasoning may be doubted by 
which the conclusion is derived, that rock-basins have necessarily 
been excavated by ice, because they are commonly found in dis- 
tricts which were formerly covered by glacier. It may be said 
that the connection which has been shown between the two* may 
be nothing more than an accidental coincidence, and that, taken 
by itself, it is scarcely more convincing than that icebergs have 
made the Arctic seas, because those seas are full of icebergs. Such 
objections, however, do not touch Professor Kamsay's main argu- 
ments ; and I think that any one who honestly endeavours to 
master them will feel that they are very ingenious, and that they 
are by no means easy to refute. 

It is impossible to deny a certain limited power of erosion to 
glaciers ; and it is difficult to see why a great glacier should not 
make a hollow (a shallow one) if it were to come down upon a plain, 
and work there for a long time. For example, let A C B D, in the 
accompanying diagram, be a transverse section of a glacier which 
is moving over level ground, AGDFB, The glacier would natu- 
rally be thickest towards the centre, and its motion would probably 
be greatest in the same neighbourhood. It should therefore erode 
its bed to a greater extent at or about the point d than anywhere 
else ; and as the motion and weight of the ice would be greater 
at or about F and G than at points between F B or G A, so also 
would the erosion be greater thereabouts. In short, it is reasonable 
to conclude that in course of time the glacier might form a hollow 
in its previously level bed, such as is represented by the dotted 

* Professor Ramsay claims to be the first who has pointed out this connection. 
Professor Dana extends the statement still further : — " Another great fact that belongs 
to the Drift latitudes on all the continents, and may have the same origin, is the occur- 
rence, on the coasts, of fiord valleys, — deep, narrow channels, occupied by the sea, 
and extending inward often 50 or 100 miles."— Manual of Geology, 1867, p. 541. 

chap. xvi. ON < HEAPING UP? 333 

line A E B. This would account for the hollowing out of rock- 
basins across their shorter axes. I do not merely think that this 


is what might happen, but that it is what must happen in course of 
time ; and saying as much is practically admitting the power of 
glaciers to produce concavities in large areas of rock. It may 
seem now as if all were conceded that is required by Professor 
Eamsay. It is not so. His principle appears to me to be sound, 
but his conclusions entirely unwarrantable. There is not the least 
doubt that rocks underneath the thicker parts of the existing 
glaciers are being eroded to a greater extent than those which are 
covered by a small amount of ice. The same must have happened 
during the glacial period. But these differences in the depth of 
the erosion may, I think, be disregarded, because the difference be- 
tween the maximum and the minimum in any given area would 
not amount to more than a very few feet ; as the evidence which 
has already been recounted tends to show that glacier-erosion has 
been insignificant at any and every part of the valleys ; and the 
valleys, it must always be remembered, were occupied by the glaciers 
for more time than the plains out of which Professor Eamsay would 
have us believe that his great lake-basins were excavated. 

To the foregoing remarks the Professor has two answers. First, 
he has the idea that the retardation which a glacier would ex- 
perience upon its arrival on a plain would tend to " heap-up " 
the ice (see p. 320). This is no doubt correct. He considers that the 
glacier would in consequence " attain an unusual thickness, thus 
exercising, after its descent, an extra erosive power." Here we get 
into the region of surmises. To this we may demur. For he 
overlooks, or, at least, does not notice, that the glacier would be 
melting at a rapid rate, at or near its end, and that, in all pro- 
bability, the extra ablation would counterbalance whatever thick- 


ening might arise from the tendency to " heap-up." The " unusual 
thickness " by which he gets his " extra erosive power," is entirely 
conjectural, and, judging by the glaciers of the present time, it is 
very doubtful if it had any existence whatever. If the Professor 
could point to a single glacier which is doubled in thickness 
through retardation, he would materially fortify his argument ; but, 
in the absence of any such evidence, we may be permitted to doubt 
if there is much force in his idea.* 

Secondly, the great basins which Professor Eamsay believes 
were excavated by glaciers,*)* are assumed to have been scooped 
out of areas filled by especially soft strata, which were removed 
with comparative facility, and at a rapid rate. Very eminent geo- 
logists disbelieve in the existence of these especially soft areas. J 
Others, again, offer evidence which leads us to believe that some of 
the great Alpine lake-basins existed before the glacial period. § 
But let us suppose that they are all wrong, and that the Professor 
is right. Let us suppose, too, that retardation actually doubled 
the thickness of the glaciers. Taking all this for granted, it is 
still incomprehensible how the ancient glacier of the Ehone 
managed to excavate the bed of the Lake of Geneva to the depth 
of 984 feet (opposite to Evian), when it was unable to remove a 
tenth part of that amount from the valley of the Ehone (say 
between Sion and Sierre) ; for it was working for a greater 

* No one can consult the excellent map which accompanies Martins' and Gastaldi's 
Terrains Superficiels without seeing in a moment, from the disposition of the 
moraines, that the great glacier of Aosta spread itself out directly it arrived upon the 
'plain. Hence, any material thickening through retardation was impossible. It can 
readily be shown that this spreading-out frequently occurs to the glaciers of the pre- 
sent time, when they pass from confined places on to open spaces (places where the 
valleys widen). 

t The basins of the lakes of Geneva, Neuchatel, Thun, Zug, Lucerne, Zurich, 
Constance, etc. etc. 

X For example, see the remarks of Prof. Favre upon the Lake of Geneva, in 
Phil. Mag., March 1865. 

§ Sir Charles Lyell, for example. In regard to the lakes of Zurich, etc., see his 
Antiquity of Man, 3d cd., pp. 314-16. 

chap. xvi. ON < SOFT PLACES. 7 335 

length of time in the valley, and no doubt with a higher rate of 
motion, than it was upon the bed of the Lake of Geneva. 

I have often wondered, considering the extent to which Pro- 
fessors Kamsay and Tyndall lean upon soft places, that they, or 
some of their adherents, have not thought it worth while to point 
out examples, upon a small and upon a large scale, of soft rocks 
which have been eroded by glaciers to a greater extent than harder 
rocks in their immediate vicinity. If Professor Eamsay is correct 
in supposing that glaciers wear away soft rocks with much greater 
rapidity than hard ones, it ought to be a very easy thing to pro- 
duce examples. Yet, as far as I know, not one of the principal 
writers upon the subject has ever attempted to prove that glacier- 
erosion proceeds at an accelerated rate upon soft rocks, and is 
retarded by hard ones. It has been repeatedly asserted, or 
assumed, that such is the case, but proofs have been very rarely 

"Whilst this is the case, it has been continually remarked by 
writers upon glacier-action (who have not, however, attached any 
particular importance to the fact), that quartz-veins are cut down, 
by the passage of ice over them, to the level of the rocks in which 
they are found. Quartz, one of the very hardest of commonly 
diffused minerals, is unable to resist the grinding of glacier. Its 
hardness does not prevent its being polished down to the same ex- 
tent as the much less resistant rocks which enclose it. If it 
suffered less than its surroundings, it would, of course, protrude. 
It does not, because it is eroded equally with the much softer rock. 
No distinction is made by the glacier, and the presence of the quartz 
is not sensible to the touch from any elevation or depression. 

If glacier-eroded rocks containing veins of quartz are exposed 
to the influences of sun, frost, and water, it is not long before the 
quartz begins to assert its superior resistancy. If it is in gneiss, 
the gneiss in contact with it speedily suffers. Minute cracks 
radiate from the junction of the two substances over the surface 
of the weaker material. Water enters the tiny fissures, and, ex- 




panding under the influence of cold, rends away grain by grain, 

until at length, as in the accompanying 
diagram at A and B, little ravines are 
formed upon each side of the quartz- 
vein Q. * 

If, on the other hand, the eroded 
rocks continue to experience the grind- 
ing of glacier, nothing of this kind 
results. The tendency of the quartz to protrude is incessantly 
checked, because, at the slightest suspicion of protrusion, it is at- 
tacked by the ice with increased power. If by any chance it 
becomes elevated above the surrounding rock, it bears off the 
weight of the ice from the surrounding rock, and this condition 
of affairs continues until both quartz and gneiss are brought to the 
same level. 

There is little difference of opinion about these matters. It is 
perfectly well known that projections in the bed of a glacier are 
attacked by the ice, and that depressions escape abrasion through the 
protection afforded by the eminences.! Hence it is that ultimately 
all angles and almost all curves are obliterated from the surfaces of 
rocks upon which glaciers work. Hence it is that in a district which 
has been severely eroded by glacier we find the rocks more flat — 
that is, less convex — than in one which has been less eroded. 

It is evident, then, that glacier does not and cannot dig away 
into soft places occupying limited areas. This is not a matter of 
opinion, but a certainty ; and it seems to me to be entirely un- 

* In Greenland I have seen gneiss cracked away from quartz-veins in glacier- 
eroded rocks, in this manner, to a depth of two inches and more. Where the same 
veins had been protected from the atmosphere, they were without the little trenches 
on each side. To the same effect see Geikie On Modern Denudation, Trans. Geol. 
Soc. Glasgow, 1868. 

f " In descending from the summit of the "Weisshorn on the 19th of August last 
I found, near the flanks of one of its glaciers, a portion of the ice completely roofing a 
hollow, over which it had been urged without being squeezed into it." — Tyndall's Moun- 
taineering in 1861, p. 73. Dr. Tyndall's testimony is especially valuable, because he 
is by no means prejudiced in favour of the views which I am supporting. 

chap. xvi. MISAPPLICATIONS. 337 

warrantable to assert, in the face of a well-ascertained fact like this, 
that the pools and small tarns lying in rock-basins (which are 
numerous in almost all mountainous countries) owe their existence 
to the excavating power of glacier, merely because glacier has passed 
over the spots which they occupy ; and, to say the least, to be in- 
judicious to apply terms like " scooping out" to the rounding and 
polishing-up of the beds of such pools, because those terms convey 
an impression that is entirely erroneous. The hollows in which 
such pools are found would necessarily have been obliterated, not 
deepened, if the glaciers had worked for a greater length of time.* 

Professor Eamsay holds the directly contrary opinion. Unless 
I am entirely mistaken in regard to his ideas, he supposes that the 
beds of almost all pools, tarns, and lakes, which lie in true rock- 
basins, have been scooped out or excavated by glaciers. As a rule 
he does not consider that these lakes occupy hollows which were 
formed either entirely or in part through upheaval or subsidence, 
(either or both), or antecedent erosion, but that the lake-basins are 
simply holes which glaciers have dug out. How or in what way 
the glaciers did the work, I have not the most remote idea. I turn 
the Professor's pages over and over without gaining the slightest 
clue.*)* But I gather from the Proceedings of the Geological Society, 

* Sir Charles Lyell remarks with much force, in the 6th ed. of his Elements, p. 170, 
"Where opportunities are enjoyed of seeing part of a valley from which a glacier has 
retreated in historical times, no basin-shaped hollows are conspicuous. Dome-shaped 
protuberances, the roches moutonnees before described, are frequent ; but the converse 
of them, or cup-and-saucer-shaped cavities, are wanting. " The justness of these ob- 
servations is undeniable. The perusal of Professor Kamsay's papers would lead any 
one personally unacquainted with glacier-eroded rocks to conclude that the reverse 
was the case — that saucer-shaped hollows were abundant, or, in other words, that 
concavities predominated. 

f I cannot find anything more explicit than this : — "The greater number lie in 
rock-basins formed by the grinding of glacier-ice. " This is simple assertion ; now for 
the proof. "Sometimes in the convolutions of the strata (conjoined with preglacial 
denudation subsequent to the contortion of the beds) softer parts of the country may 
have been scooped out ; but perhaps more generally they were formed by the greater 
thickness and weight of glacier-ice on particular areas, due to accidents to which it is 
now often difficult or impossible to find the clue."— Proc. Geol. Soc, 1862, p. 188. 



that it was from the examination of the small pools he first came to 
the conclusion that glaciers scooped out basins in rock ; that he 
was at first "too timid to include the larger lakes ;" and that be- 
coming convinced the larger lakes occupied true rock-basins, he in- 
cluded them in the category of lakes which had been formed by the 
agency of glacier, because glacier alone, in his opinion, is capable of 
excavating true rock-basins ! 

The smaller idea has been shown to be fallacious, and it might 
be said that the larger one, which is built upon it, necessarily falls 
through. This is scarcely the case. The former deals with square 
yards, and the latter with square miles. A glacier we know, as a 
matter of fact, polishes down a quartz-vein in the same way as it 
does a bed of soft limestone. A plane which is adapted for plan- 
ing wood may cut through a nail in a plank whilst taking off a 
shaving. But the plane is unable to take a shaving off a solid mass 
of iron, and it might be said, with some plausibility, that a glacier 
might be equally impotent if it had to work over square miles of 
quartz instead of square feet. To form a just idea of the probability 
of a glacier producing a lake-basin in one place (in soft strata), when 
during the same, or a longer, period, it only slightly erodes the sur- 
face at another place (hard strata), we ought to find out the effects 
which are actually produced by glaciers when working over a series 
of strata of unequal hardness, where the strike of the beds coincides 
with the direction of the motion of the ice. The idea, indeed, has 
often occurred to me, that insignificant quartz-veins might resist the 
grinding of glacier if they were worked upon longitudinally. It 
is not, of course, an easy thing to find a vein of quartz which has 
been worked upon longitudinally for a considerable distance ; and 
I have never observed a better example than that which is described 
in the following paragraph. 

In 1867, upon the shores of a fiord, about nine miles to the east 
of the settlement of Claushavn in North Greenland, I had the good 
fortune to discover the finest examples of roches nivelees which I have 
seen anywhere. The great interior mer de glace was near at hand, 
and a branch of it closed the inlet with an unbroken wall of ice, 


which was nearly a mile across. This branch had formerly filled 
the fiord, and had apparently covered the place to which I refer at 
no very remote date. Tremendous evidences of its power had been 
left behind. The gneiss upon the shores was literally levelled, and 
extended for hundreds of yards in continuous sheets, with polished 
surfaces destitute of all detritus, difficult to walk upon, for there 
was nothing to arrest the feet when they slipped. In these rocks 
there were two great veins of quartz, each three to four feet thick, 
which attracted notice at a considerable distance by their excessive 
brilliancy when the sun fell upon them. These ran roughly parallel 
to each other for about eighty yards, and throughout that distance 
their direction had nearly coincided with that in which the glacier 
had moved. The glacier had passed over them at an angle of about 
10°. Upon this quartz my hammer danced and rang, and made 
scarcely any impression. I chipped away the gneiss without diffi- 
culty. The glacier had worked upon two substances of unequal 
resistancy. Yet, if a line had been stretched between the highest 
points across any hundred feet of these sheets of rock, I do not 
think that any part of the rock would have been depressed one foot 
below the cord. The quartz, instead of standing up in ridges, as I 
thought it might have done, was cut down to the same level as the 
gneiss ; the keenest scrutiny could not detect the least difference. 

It was evident, from the entire obliteration of form, that these 
rocks had had enormous power exerted upon them, and that a not 
inconsiderable depth of rock had been removed. It is immaterial 
whether the effects had been produced by comparatively limited 
force spread over an enormous length of time, or whether by greater 
force in a less time. The same effects would have been produced 
if the same amount of abrading power had been exerted over an 
equal area of similar rock in the Alps. But it is doubtful, perhaps, 
if there is in the Alps an equal area of rock which can be compared 
for perfection pf glaciation to that of which I have spoken. I think 
it may certainly be asserted that there is not either in the Valley of 
the Ehone or in the Valley of Aosta. The glacier-eroded rocks of 
those valleys, and of the Alps generally, are notable for their con- 


vexity, and this affords evidence that the Alps have been subjected 
to less abrading power than the district in Greenland to the east of 
Clanshavn. Now, if there is any truth in the assumption that 
glaciers dig away into soft rocks with much greater rapidity than into 
hard ones, there is, of course, greater opportunity for the exercise 
of this discriminative excavation when great power is exerted and 
when great erosion occurs, than when less power is exercised and 
less matter is removed. In Greenland, although enormous power 
has been exerted, and a considerable depth of rock has been un- 
doubtedly removed, we find no appreciable distinction made in the 
treatment of two materials of very different degrees of hardness. 
How, then, is it possible to suppose that the prodigious amount of 
distinction could have been made which is assumed by Professor 
Ramsay in the less eroded Alps ? 

These are by no means the only obstacles which stand in the 
way of acceptance of his theory.* The difficulty is great of ex- 
plaining how the glaciers excavated the rock-basins which exist, 
but it is still more troublesome to account for the non-existence of 
those which ought to have been made. The Professor explained at 
considerable length why they would not be formed upon steep 
ground (§ 9, p. 316), and I cordially agree with the first part of his 
remarks ; but he went on to say that when a glacier descended into 
a " flat valley the case was different. There, to use homely phrases, 
the ice had time to select soft places for excavation." " Why, then," 
asked several eminent persons — Mr. John Ball and Professor Pavre 
amongst the number — "are there not lakes in the Valley of Aosta ?" 
The valley is precisely the kind of one in which they should have 
been formed. Its inclination, as I have shown (p. 313), is very 
moderate, and several parts of it (the site of the city of Aosta, for 
example) are almost plains. The glacier which occupied it, one 
would have thought, was thick enough to have ground out basins in 

* For some of the more important objections, see Sir R. Murchison's Address to 
the Royal Geog. Soc. 1864 ; Sir C. Ly ell's Antiquity of Man and Elements of Geology; 
Prof. Studer's Originc des Lacs Suisses; Prof. Favre in Phil. Mag. March 1865 ; and 
Mr. John Ball in Phil. Mag. Feb. 1863. 

chap. xvi. LAKE-BEDS WANTED. 341 

the rock at any part, and retardation thickened it still more, occa- 
sionally* Are there no soft places throughout this great valley ? 
Were there no accidents, which caused exceptional grinding on par- 
ticular areas, throughout the whole of that long period during which 
the valley was occupied by glacier ? Apparently there were not ; 
anyhow, there are no lakes in the valley worthy of mention, nor 
are there, as far as can be told, any places where basins were ex- 
cavated in the rock. The Professor evidently feels that the great 
glacier of Aosta did not behave as it should have done, and seems 
to be nettled by the references which have been made to its unac- 
countable remissness. " I have attempted," said he, " to explain 
why the rock-basins are present, and not why they are absent."f 
He had, in fact, already accounted for their non-formation. He had 
shown that the great valleys of the Alps were approximately the 
same in their general features before they were filled with ice as 
they are at the present time. He had brought forward proof that 
this was the case with the Valley of Aosta, had shown that the great 
glacier which issued on to the plain at Ivrea had been unable to 
remove loose river-gravel, and had declared explicitly that the rea- 
son was that time was wanting. The entire passage is as follows : — 

" When lately south of the Alps, it was proved to me by Mr. Gastaldi,* 
that at the mouths of the great Alpine valleys opening on the plain of the Po, 
there were ancient alluvial fan-shaped masses of gravel quite analogous to those 
that by the agency of existing torrents have issued from the gorges on either 
side (for instance) of the valleys of the Rhone or the Dora, or of those that still 
issue at their mouths. These were deposited on a plain rather lower than the 
existing one, above Pliocene marine deposits, at a time when the true mountain 
valleys — at all events near their mouths — were just about as deep as they are 

* Professor Guyot has remarked striations ascending towards the mouth of the 
valley in places where the valley narrows. See Gastaldi's Terrains Superjiciels. 

+ Phil. Mag., Oct. 1864, pp. 305-6. 

X Professor Gastaldi had published the same fact more than* twelve years before. " On 
voit au ravin du torrent de Boriana, qui descend de la tourbiere de San -Giovanni, que 
le terrain glaciare eparpille supporte la moraine superficielle, et se confond lui-meme 
avec le diluvium Alpin qui repose inferieurement sur le pliocene marin." — Terrains 
Superjiciels, 1850. 


now ; for the great glaciers that filled the larger valleys issued out upon and 
overflowed these low-lying river-gravels, and deposited their moraines above 
them, only in part scooping them away, apparently because the glaciers did 
not endure long enough of sufficient size to complete their destruction. No 
better proof could be required that in great part the valleys of the Alps were 
approximately as deep before the glacial epoch as they are at present ; and I 
believe, with the Italian geologists, that all that the glaciers as a whole effected 
was only slightly to deepen these valleys." — Phil. Mac/., Nov. 1862, p. 379. 

This passage was, I presume, intended to upset the doctrines of 
Dr. Tyndall, and it did so, conclusively, as far as the mouth of the 
Valley of Aosta was concerned. It struck almost as severely at the 
opinions of its author. Indeed, there is scarcely anything more 
damaging to be found in the whole of the remarks which the publi- 
cation of his original memoir called forth. At the mouth of the 
Valley of Aosta, during the glacial epoch, the whole of the condi- 
tions were found which Professor Eamsay requires for the formation 
of lake-basins. There was a vast glacier that issued out upon a 
plain, and which, in consequence of retardation, worked with un- 
usual effect (?). It is demonstrable that it existed upon the plain 
for an enormous length of time ; it is certain that it was extra- 
ordinarily thick ; and the particular area upon which it worked was 
undoubtedly favo urablefor excavation. Yet the Professor is obliged 
to confess that the ice was unable to remove loose river-gravel lying 
upon the surface (indeed, that the glacier actually left another 
stratum of drift upon the gravel), and that the solid rock beneath 
did not experience any excavation whatever ! There are many 
other places at which the same thing is known to have occurred, 
and so far from there being any especial tendency to excavate to- 
wards the snouts of glaciers, well-established facts lead rather to the 
opposite conclusion. A glacier which is bearing moraines always 
has those moraines brought together, jumbled together, towards its 
snout. Much of this moraine-matter falls down the sides of the 
glacier, and gets wedged between the ice and the bed-rock ; much 
more falls over the terminal face of ice, and forms a stratum over 
which the glacier has to pass. This continually happens as the 


glacier progresses ; and until this stratum, interposed by the glacier 
itself, is ground away, the bed-rock (or whatever may happen to be 
over the bed-rock) is not assailed. The evidence is that the stratum 
of glacial drift which was deposited in this way at the mouth of the 
Valley of Aosta was able to resist the grinding of the glacier during 
the whole of its prolonged operations around Ivrea, and this fact gives, 
perhaps, a clearer idea of the extremely limited power of glaciers 
for excavation than any other which can be brought forward. 

The weight of evidence seems to me to bear heavily against 
Professor Eamsay's theory. In support of it, he has literally 
nothing more than the facts that glaciers abrade rocks over which 
they pass, and that there are numerous rock-basins (occupied or 
not occupied by lakes) lying within areas which were formerly 
covered by glacier. Here certainty ends. There are nothing but 
conjectures left, most of which have not even probability on their 
side. The idea that all petty pools and small tarns (which lie in 
rock-basins) occupy areas which have been subjected to special 
grinding, seems to me to be fully as absurd as the notion that each 
one lies in an area of special subsidence ; and if all the geologists 
in the world were to swear that it was a solemn verity, I could not 
believe it, after what I have seen of the behaviour of glaciers upon 
rocks. The notion that the great lake-basins occupy areas that 
were filled with especially soft strata, which were subjected to 
exceptional grinding, seems to me not to be warranted. It is 
doubtful if the soft strata had any existence ; it is doubtful if 
there was exceptional grinding ; and it is highly improbable that the 
glaciers would have worked upon those basins at a rate ten, fifty, 
or a hundred times faster than they did in other places, even if the 
basins were filled with soft strata. More evidence is wanted upon 
this head ; but it will be surprising if fresh facts upset those which 
have been already observed. Looking at all this doubt and con- 
jecture on one side, and the numerous facts upon the other which 
prove that very small glacier-erosion has occurred throughout the 
Alps generally, and the extremely limited capacity of glaciers for 


excavation under any circumstances, it seems less probable that 
Professor Ramsay's theory will work its way to popular acceptance, 
than that it will quietly take its place amongst the exploded dogmas 
which are left behind in the progress of scientific inquiry. 

Our thoughts were more than usually set upon roches mouton- 
nees, and rocks of that genus, upon the 23d of June 1865. My 
guides and I were reposing upon the top of Mont Saxe, scanning the 
Grandes Jorasses, with a view to ascending it. Five thousand feet 
of glacier-covered precipices rose above us, and up all that height 
we tracked a way to our satisfaction. Three thousand feet more 
of glacier and forest -covered slopes lay beneath, and there, there 
was only one point at which it was doubtful if we should find a 
path. The glaciers were shrinking, and were surrounded by bas- 
tions of rounded rock, far too polished to please the rough moun- 
taineer. We could not track a way across them. However, at 4 
a.m. the next day,* under the dexterous leading of Michel Croz, 
we passed the doubtful spot. Thence it was all plain sailing, and 
at 1 p.m. we gained the summit. The weather was boisterous in the 
upper regions, and storm-clouds driven before the wind, and wrecked 
against our heights, enveloped us in misty spray, which danced 
around and fled away, which cut us off from the material universe, 
and caused us to be, as it were, suspended betwixt heaven and 
earth, seeing both occasionally, but seeming to belong to neither. 

The mists lasted longer than my patience, and we descended 
without having attained the object for which the ascent was made. 
At first we followed the little ridge shown upon the accompanying 
engraving, leading from our summit -f* towards the spectator, and 

* For route, see map of the chain of Mont Blanc. 

t The ascent of the Grandes Jorasses was made to obtain a view of the upper part 
of the Aig. Verte. and upon that account the westernmost summit was selected in 
preference to the highest one. Both summits are shown upon the accompanying en- 
graving. That on the right is (as it appears to be) the highest. That upon its left 
is the one which we ascended, and is about 100 feet lower than the other. A couple 
of days after our ascent, Henri Grati, Julien Grange, Jos. Mar. Perrod, Alexis Clusaz, 
and Daniel Gex (all of Courmayeur), followed our traces to the summit in order to 



then took to the head of the corridor of glacier on its left, which in 
the view is left perfectly white. The slopes were steep and covered 
with new-fallen snow, flour-like and evil to tread upon. On the 
ascent we had reviled it, and had made our staircase with much 
caution, knowing full well that the disturbance of its base would 
bring down all that was above. In descending, the bolder spirits 
counselled trusting to luck and a glissade ; the cautious ones advo- 
cated avoiding the slopes and crossing to the rocks on their farther 
side. The advice of the latter prevailed, and we had half-traversed 
the snow, to gain the ridge, when the crust slipped and we went 
along with it. "Halt!" broke from all four, unanimously. The 
axe-heads flew round as we started on this involuntary glissade. 
It was useless, they slid over the underlying ice fruitlessly. " Halt ! " 
thundered Croz, as he dashed his weapon in again with superhuman 
energy. ISTo halt could be made, and we slid down slowly, but 
with accelerating motion, driving up waves of snow in front, with 
streams of the nasty stuff hissing all around. Luckily, the slope 
eased off at one place, the leading men cleverly jumped aside out of 
the moving snow, we others followed, and the young avalanche 
which we had started, continuing to pour down, fell into a yawning 
crevasse, and showed us where our grave would have been if we 
had remained in its company five seconds longer. The whole affair 
did not occupy half-a-minute. It was the solitary incident of a 
long day, and at nightfall we re-entered the excellent house kept 
by the courteous Bertolini, well satisfied that we had not met with 
more incidents of a similar description. 

learn the way. As far as my observation extends, such things are seldom done by 
money-grasping or spiritless guides, and I have mueh pleasure in being able to men- 
tion their names. The highest point (13,799) was ascended on June 29-30, 1868, by 
Mr. Horace Walker, with the guides Melchior Anderegg, J. Jaun, and Julien Grange. 



"Men willingly believe what tliey wish." — Cesar. 

Feeethinking mountaineers have been latterly in the habit of going 
up one side of an Alp and coining down the other, and calling the 
route a pass. In this confusion of ideas may be recognised the re- 
sult of the looseness of thought which arises from the absence of 
technical education. The true believer abhors such heresies, and 
observes with satisfaction that Providence oftentimes punishes the 
offenders for their greediness by causing them to be benighted. 
The faithful know that passes must be made between mountains, 
and not over their tops. Their creed declares that between any 
two mountains there must be a pass, and they believe that the end 
for which big peaks were created — the office they are especially de- 
signed to fulfil — is to point out the way one should go. This 
is the true faith, and there is no other. 

We set out upon the 26th of June to endeavour to add one more 
to the passes which are strictly orthodox. We hoped, rather than 
expected, to discover a quicker route from Courmayeur to Cha- 
mounix than the Col du Geant, which was the easiest, quickest, and 
most direct pass known at the time across the main chain of Mont 
Blanc* The misgivings which I had as to the result caused us to 
start at the unusual hour of 12.40 a.m. At 4.30 we passed the 
chalets of Pre du Bar, and thence, for some distance, followed the 
track which we had made upon the ascent of Mont Dolent, over the 

* The view of Mont Blanc from a gorge on the south of the Italian Val Ferret, 
mid-way between the villages of La Vachey and Praz See, and about 3000 feet above 
them, is, in my opinion, the finest which can be obtained <>l that mountain range any- 
where upon the Italian side. 

1 <\ " V 



chap. xvii. THE COL DOLENT. 347 

glacier of the same name (p. 239). At a quarter past 8 we ar- 
rived at the head of the glacier, and at the foot of the only steep 
gradient upon the whole of the ascent. 

It was the beau-ideal of a pass. There was a gap in the moun- 
tains, with a big peak on each side (Mont Dolent and the Aig. de 
Triolet). A narrow thread of snow led up to the lowest point 
between those mountains, and the blue sky beyond said, Directly 
you arrive here you will begin to go down. We addressed ourselves 
to our task, and at 10.15 a.m. arrived at the top of the pass. 

Had things gone as they ought, within six hours more we should 
have been at Chamounix. Upon the other side we knew that there 
was a couloir in correspondence with that up which we had just 
come. If it had been filled with snow all would have been well. 
It turned out to be filled with ice. Croz, who led, passed over to 
the other side, and reported that we should get down somehow, but 
I knew from the sound of his axe how the somehow would be, and 
settled myself to sketch, well assured that / should not be wanted 
for an hour to come. What I saw is shown in the engraving. A 
sharp aiguille (nameless), perhaps the sharpest in the whole range, 
backed on the left by the Aig. de Triolet ; queer blocks of (probably) 
protogine sticking out awkwardly through the snow ; and a huge 
cornice from which big icicles depended, that broke away occa- 
sionally and went skiddling down the slope up which we had come. 
Of the Argentiere side I could not see anything. 

Croz was tied up with our good Manilla rope, and the whole 200 
feet were payed out gradually by Aimer and Biener before he ceased 
working. After two hours' incessant toil, he was able to anchor 
himself to the rock on his right. He then untied himself, the rope 
was drawn in, Biener was attached to the end and went down to 
join his comrade. There was then room enough for me to stand by 
the side of Aimer, and I got my first view of the other side. For 
the first and only time in my life I looked down a slope more than 
a thousand feet long, set at an angle of about 50°, which was a sheet 
of ice from top to bottom. It was unbroken by rock or crag, and 


anything thrown down it sped away unarrested until the level of 
the Glacier d'Argentiere was reached. The entire basin of that noble 
glacier* was spread out at our feet, and the ridge beyond, culmi- 
nating in the Aig. d'Argentiere, was seen to the greatest advantage. 
I confess, however, that I paid very little attention to the view, for 
there was no time to indulge in such luxuries. I descended the 
icy staircase and joined the others, and then we three drew in the 
rope tenderly as Aimer came down. His was not an enviable posi- 
tion, but he descended with as much steadiness as if his whole life 
had been passed on ice-slopes of 50°. The process was repeated ; 
Croz again going to the front, and availing himself very skilfully of 
the rocks which projected from the cliff on our right. Our 200 feet 
of rope again came to an end, and we again descended one by one. 
From this point we were able to clamber down by the rocks alone 
for about 300 feet. They then became sheer cliff, and we stopped 
for dinner, about 2.30 p.m., at the last place upon which we could 
sit. Four hours' incessant work had brought us rather more than 
half-way down the gully. We were now approaching, although we 
were still high above, the schrunds at its base, and the guides made 
out, in some way unknown to me, that Nature had perversely placed 
the only snow-bridge across the topmost one towards the centre of 
the gully. It was decided to cut diagonally across the gully to the 
point where the snow-bridge was supposed to be. Aimer and Biener 
undertook the work, leaving Croz and myself firmly planted on the 
rocks to pay out the rope to them as they advanced. 

It is generally admitted that veritable ice-slopes (understanding 
by ice something more than a crust of hard snow over soft snow) 
are only rarely met with in the Alps. They are frequently spoken 
of, but such as that to which I refer are very rarely seen, and still 
more seldom traversed. It is, however, always possible that they 
may be encountered, and on this account, if for no other, it is 

* The next generation may witness its extinction. The portion of it seen from 
the village of Argentiere is (1869) at least one quarter less in width than it was ten 
years ago. 





necessary for men who go mountaineering to be armed with ice- 
axes, and with good ones. The form is of more importance than 
might be supposed. Of course, if you intend to act as a simple 
amateur, and let others do the work, and only follow in their steps, 
it is not of much importance what kind of ice-axe you carry, so 
long as its head does not fall off, or otherwise behave itself impro- 
perly * There is no better weapon for cutting steps in ice than a 
common pick-axe, and the form of ice-axe which is now usually 
employed by the best guides is very like a miniature pick. My 
own axe is copied from Melchior Anderegg's. It is of wrought iron, 
with point and edge 
steeled. Its weight, 
including spiked 
handle, is four 
pounds. For cut- 
ting steps in ice, 
the pointed end of 
the head is almost 
exclusively em- 
ployed ; the adze- 
end is handy for 
polishing them up, 
but is principally 
used for cutting in 
hard snow. Apart 
from its value as a 
cutting weapon, it 
is invaluable as a 
grapnel. It is natu- 
rally a rather awkward implement when it is not being employed 
for its legitimate purpose, and is likely to give rise to much strong 

* This observation is not made without reason. I have seen the head of one tumble 
off at a slight tap, in consequence of its handle having been perforated by an inge- 
nious but useless arrangement of nails. 




chap. xvir. 

language in crushes at railway termini, unless its head is protected 
with a leathern cap, or in some other way. Many attempts have 
been made, for the sake of convenience, to fashion an ice-axe with 
a movable head, but it seems difficult or impossible to produce one 
except at the expense of cutting qualities, and by increasing the 



the firm of Fairbairn & 
quaintance with mountain- 
and manufacture of tools, 
ticularly valuable, has con- 
seen ; but even it seems to 
gidity, and not to be so 
more common kind with 
pie instrument which is 
the invention of Mr. Leslie 

Mr. T. S. Kennedy (of 
Co.), whose practical ac- 
eering, and with the use 
makes his opinion par- 
trived the best that I have 
me to be deficient in ri- 
powerful a weapon as the 
the fixed head. The sim- 
shown in the annexed diagram 
Stephen, and it an- 
swers the purposes for 
which he devised it, 
namely, for giving bet- 
ter hold upon snow 
and ice than can be obtained from the common alpenstock, and for 
cutting an occasional step. The amateur scarcely requires anything 
more imposing, but for serious ice-work a heavier weapon is 

To persons armed with the proper tools, ice-slopes are not so 
dangerous as many places which appeal less to the imagination. 
Their ascent or descent is necessarily laborious (to those who do the 
work), and they may therefore be termed difficult. They ought not 
to be dangerous. Yet they always seem dangerous, for one is pro- 
foundly convinced that if he slips he will certainly go to the bottom. 

char xvii. ON CRAMPONS. 351 

Hence, any man, who is not a fool, takes particular care to pre- 
serve his balance, and, in consequence, we have the noteworthy fact 
that accidents have seldom or never taken place upon ice-slopes. 

The same slopes covered with snow are much less impressive, 
and may be much more dangerous. They may be less slippery, the 
balance may be more easily preserved, and if one man slips he may 
be stopped by his own personal efforts, provided the snow which 
over-lies the ice is consolidated and of a reasonable depth. But if, as 
is more likely to be the case upon an angle of 50° (or anything ap- 
proaching that angle), there is only a thin stratum of snow which is 
not consolidated, the occurrence of a slip will most likely take the 
entire party as low as possible, and in addition to the chance of 
broken necks, there will be a strong probability that some, at least, 
will be smothered by the dislodged snow. Such accidents are far too 
common, and their occurrence, as a rule, may be traced to the want 
of caution which is induced by the apparent absence of danger. 

I do not believe that the use of the rope, in the ordinary way, 
affords the least real security upon ice-slopes. Nor do I think that 
any benefit is derived from the employment of crampons. Mr. 
Kennedy was good enough to present me with a pair some time 
ago, and one of these has been 
engraved. They are the best 
variety I have seen of the 
species, but I only feel com- 
fortable with them on my feet 
in places where they are not 
of the slightest use, that is in 
situations where there is no 
possibility of slipping, and would not wear them upon an ice-slope for 
any consideration whatever. All such adventitious aids are useless 
if you have not a good step in the ice to stand upon, and if you have 
got that, nothing more is wanted except a few nails in the boots. 

Aimer and Biener got to the end of their tether ; the rope no 
longer assured their safety, and they stopped work as we advanced 


and coiled it up. Shortly afterwards they struck a streak of snow 
that proved to be just above the bridge of which they were in 
search. The slope steepened, and for thirty feet or so we descended 
face to the wall, making steps by kicking with the toes, and thrust- 
ing the arms well into the holes above, just as if they had been 
rounds in a ladder. At this time we were crossing the uppermost 
of the schrunds. Needless to say that the snow was of an admir- 
able quality ; this performance would otherwise have been impos- 
sible. It was soon over, and we then found ourselves upon a huge 
rhomboidal mass of ice, and still separated from the Argentiere 
glacier by a gigantic crevasse. The only bridge over this lower 
schrund was at its eastern end, and we were obliged to double back 
to get to it. Cutting continued for half-an-hour after it was passed, 
and it was 5.35 p.m. before the axes stopped work, and we could at 
last turn back and look comfortably at the formidable slope upon 
which seven hours had been spent, "f" 

The Col Dolent is not likely to compete with the Col du 
Geant, and I would recommend any person who starts to cross it to 
allow himself plenty of time, plenty of rope, and ample guide- 
power. There is no difficulty whatever upon any part of the route, 
excepting upon the steep slopes immediately below the summit on 
each side. When we arrived upon the Glacier d' Argentiere, our 
work was as good as over. "We drove a straight track to the cha- 
lets of Lognan, and thence the way led over familiar ground. Soon 
after dusk we got into the high road at les Tines, and at 10 p.m. 
arrived at Chamounix. Our labours were duly rewarded. Houris 
brought us champagne and the other drinks which are reserved for 
the faithful, but before my share was consumed I fell asleep in an 
arm-chair. I slept soundly until daybreak, and then turned into 
bed and went to sleep again. 

* It occupies about one-sixth of an inch upon the map. I estimate its height at 
1200 feet. The triangulation of Capt. Mieulet places the summit of the pass 11,624 
feet ahove the sea. This, I think, is rather too high. 



' ' Few have the fortitude of soul to honour 
A friend's success, without a touch of envy." 


Michel Ceoz now parted from us. His new employer had not 
arrived at Chamounix, but Croz considered that he was bound by 
honour to wait for him, and thus Christian Aimer, of Grindelwald, 
became my leading guide. 

Aimer displayed aptitude for mountaineering at an early age. 
Whilst still a very young man he was known as a crack chamois- 
hunter, and he soon developed into an accomplished guide. Those 
who have read Mr. Wills' graphic account of the first ascent of the 
Wetterhorn * will remember that, when his party was approaching 
the top of the mountain, two stranger men were seen climbing by 
a slightly different route, one of whom carried upon his back a 
young fir-tree, branches, leaves, and all. Mr. Wills' guides were 
extremely indignant with these two strangers (who were evidently 
determined to be the first at the summit), and talked of giving them 
blows. Eventually they gave them a cake of chocolate instead, 
and declared that they were good fellows. "Thus the pipe of 
peace was smoked, and tranquillity reigned between the rival 
forces." Christian Aimer was one of these two men. 

This was in 1854. In 1858-9 he made the first ascents of the 
Eigher and the Monch, the former with a Mr. Harrington (?), and 
the latter with Dr. Porges. Since then he has wandered far and 

Wanderings among the High Alps, 1858. 





near, from Dauphine to the Tyrol* With the exception of 
Melchior Anderegg, there is not, perhaps, another guide of such 
wide experience, or one who has been so invariably successful ; 
and his numerous employers concur in saying that there is not a 
truer heart or a surer foot to be found amongst the Alps. 


Before recrossing the chain to Courmayeur, we ascended the 
Aiguille Verte. In company with Mr. Eeilly I inspected this 
mountain from every direction in 1864, and came to the conclusion 
that an ascent could more easily be made from the south than 
upon any other side. We set out upon the 28th from Chamounix 
to attack it, minus Croz, and plus a porter (of whom I will speak 
more particularly presently), leaving our comrade very downcast 
at having to kick his heels in idleness, whilst we were about to 
scale the most celebrated of his native Aiguilles. 

Our course led us over the old Mer de Glace — the glacier made 
famous by De Saussure and Forbes. The heat of the day was 

* Most of his principal exploits are recorded in the publications of the Alpine Club. 
+ Engraved, by permission, from a photograph by Mr. E. Edwards. 




over, but the little rills and rivulets were still flowing along the 
surface of the ice ; cutting deep troughs where the gradients were 
small ; leaving ripple-marks where the water was with more diffi- 
culty confined to one channel ; and falling over the precipitous 
walls of the great crevasses, sometimes in bounding cascades, and 
sometimes in diffused streams, which marked the perpendicular 

It ,, 


, Jlffl 

MM.S f/j 



faces with graceful sinuosities* As night came on, their music 
died away, the rivulets dwindled down to rills ; the rills ceased to 
murmur, and the sparkling drops, caught by the hand of frost, were 
bound to the ice, coating it with an enamelled film which lasted 
until the sun struck the glacier once more. 

* Admirably rendered in the accompanying drawing by Mr. Cyrus Johnson. The 
" ripple-marks " are seen in the engraving upon p. 356. 




The weathering of the walls of crevasses, which obscures the 
internal structure of the glacier, has led some to conclude that the 
stratification which is seen in the higher glacier-regions is obliterated 
in the lower ones. Others, Agassiz and Mr. John Ball for example, 
have disputed this opinion,* and my own experiences accord with 
those of these accurate observers. It is, undoubtedly, very difficult 
to trace stratification in the lower ends of the Alpine glaciers ; but 


we are not, upon that . account, entitled to conclude that the ori- 
ginal structure of the ice has been obliterated. There are thou- 
sands of crevasses in the upper regions upon whose walls no traces 
of bedding are apparent, and we might say, with equal unreason- 
ableness, that it was obliterated there also. Take an axe, and 
clear away the ice which has formed from water trickling down 

* See Agassiz in Atlantic Monthly, Dec. 1863 ; and Mr. J. Ball in Phil. Mag. Dec. 
1857 (supplementary number), and April 1859. 


the faces, and the weathered ice beneath, and you will expose sec- 
tions of the mingled strata of pure and of imperfect ice, and see 
clearly enough that the primitive structure of the glacier has not 
been effaced, although it has been obscured. 

Notwithstanding all that has been written to the contrary by 
very eminent authorities, I believe that the strata of ice which are 
formed by weathering, upon the beds of snow that are deposited 
in the higher regions, exist (unless they are originally of very small 
thickness) to the ends of the glaciers, and that many of the veins 
of blue ice which are seen on the surfaces of the lower parts of 
Alpine glaciers are nothing more than the outcropping of .the 
primarily horizontal strata. 

Some of those who have maintained the contrary opinion, have 
evidently had a very insufficient idea of the extent to which the 
upper snows are pervaded by the strata of blue ice, and of their 
thickness. In the Appendix it is shown that there were in the 
upper 22 feet of snow at the summit of the Col de Valpelline, in 
1866, no less than 75 layers of ice, one of which was more than 
6 inches in thickness, whilst numerous others ranged from half-an- 
inch to one inch. The total depth of these 75 layers amounted to 
25f inches, or nearly one-tenth of the mass which we were able to 
penetrate. As far as I am aware, it has not been proved experi- 
mentally that it is possible (by compression, or in any other way) 
to obliterate a plate of ice, even an inch in thickness, placed 
between snow, or between ice of inferior density, except by lique- 
faction of the entire mass. 

Others who have pronounced against the possibility of the 
horizontal strata of blue ice contributing any of the veins of blue 
ice which constitute the veined structure* of glaciers, have done so 

* The late Principal J. D. Forbes was the first to attach any importance to the 
veined structure of glaciers. I gather the following definitions of it from different 
pages of his Occasional Papers. " I cannot more accurately describe it, than by call- 
ing it a ribboned structure, formed by thin and delicate blue and bluish-white bands 
or strata, which appear to traverse the ice in a vertical direction, or rather which, by 
their apposition, formed the entire mass of the ice. The direction of these bands was 


upon the ground that all traces of stratification are obliterated 
before the appearance of the veined structure. It is, however, now 
well known that the primitive structure has been detected after 
the appearance of the veins on the surfaces of glaciers — the veins, 
indeed, have been observed in the walls of crevasses cutting the 
original structure* It is proved thereby that the original struc- 
ture remains in existence down to a low point, and that, so far at 
least, it is not obliterated."!* 

It has also been urged that " the blue veins of glaciers are not 
always, nor even generally, such as we should expect to result from 
stratification. The latter would furnish us with distinct planes ex- 
tending parallel to each other for considerable distances through the 
glacier ; but this, though sometimes the case, is by no means the 
general character of the structure." With this observation I agree. 
It amounts, however, only to saying, that it is impossible to con- 
parallel to the length of the glacier" (p. 3.) "In some parts of the glacier it 
appears more developed than in others. . . It penetrates the thickness of the 
glacier to great depths. It is an integral part of its inmost structure " (p. 5.) 
"The breadth of these (bands) varies from a small fraction of an inch to several 
inches " (p. 8). " This structure consists in the alternation of more or less perfectly 
crystallised ice in parallel layers, often thinning out altogether like veins in marble" 
(p. 19). 

Forbes' "veined structure " is frequently cut, both horizontally and vertically, by 
other veins, which latter seem to me to have clearly a different origin from the former. 
Proper discrimination has not hitherto been made between the two. Observers 
sometimes call one, sometimes the other, and sometimes both, the " veined structure." 
It would, I think, be convenient and appropriate to term Forbes' structure " the 
laminated structure of glacier." In 1867, upon the surface of a glacier in the 
Jakobshavn district, North Greenland, I saw three series of veins crossing each other 
in three different directions, forming a cross-bar or net-work pattern upon the ice. 
This was certainly not Forbes' structure. 

* This of course proves that the origin of all the veins is not found in stratifica- 
tion, but it does not prove (as some appear to think) that all of the veins have a 
different origin. 

t I believe that I have seen the planes of the original bedding still remaining 
parallel to the surface in some icebergs floating into Disco Bay, which had come from 
a glacier at least 20 miles long. If I am not mistaken, this is a most important and 
significant fact. 

chap, xviii. ORIGIN OF VEINS IN GLACIERS. 359 

sider that all of the blue veins have their origin in the stratified 
beds of snow and ice from which glaciers are born. Any person 
who has been close to an " ice-fall " on one of the principal Alpine 
glaciers, and observed the great seracs lurching forward, with the 
primitive beds remaining parallel, or nearly so, to the surface of the 
glacier, must feel that it is extremely improbable that the masses 
will be so re-compacted lower down as to " furnish us with distinct 
planes extending parallel to each other for considerable distances!' 
It will be felt that some of the seracs will be so smashed up that 
the original structure will be got rid of ; that others, which descend 
more gently, will remain intact, but will settle down with their beds 
more or less inclined to the horizon ; and that it will be a very ex- 
traordinary chance if the dip of the strata of any two of the masses 
coincides within many degrees. 

Upon these grounds I believe that many of the veins of the 
veined structure of glaciers are nothing more than the upturned 
layers of blue ice which are formed upon and between the beds of 
snow that are deposited in the higher regions.* I am far from 
thinking that the occurrence of the whole of the veins of blue ice 
which are found in glaciers should be accounted for in this way. I 
do not believe that the combinations of different varieties of ice 
that are found in glaciers, which have been referred to by various 
authors as the veined structure, can be accounted for in two or even 
in three ways. Avoiding disputed points, I will observe that there 
are at least two other modes by which many veins of blue ice are 
undoubtedly produced in glaciers. 

First, by water freezing into crevasses. I have seen hundreds of 
crevasses in Greenland nearly full of water ; never quite full : the 
water seldom came within two or three feet of the surface of the 
glacier. I have seen the entire surface of the water in such cre- 
vasses frozen and freezing. I have seen the water sometimes frozen 
solid at one end and remaining liquid at the other end ; and in the 
walls of icebergs I have seen sections of crevasses that have been 

* Sometimes, probably thickened by pressure. 


nearly filled with water, in which the water has been frozen solid * 
These veins in icebergs are frequently one to three feet thick, and 
can be seen at several miles' distance. If veins of bine ice are not- 
formed in the Alpine glaciers in the same manner, it is only because 
there are outlets from the crevasses by which the water escapes. 
It is rare to see a crevasse even partly filled with water in the Alps."f- 
Secondly, by the closing together of crevasses. The unequal 
motion of the parts of a glacier causes crevasses continually to 
open and to close up ; and the walls of these crevasses, whether 
12,000 feet or more above the level of the sea, or whether only 5000, 
all become weathered and more or less coated with pure ice. Even 
narrow crevasses in the high regions, well bridged with snow, are 
not exempt. The warm air of midsummer penetrates the chasms, 
and, assisted by the percolation of snow water, glazes the walls from 
top to bottom. The superficial coatings of ice which are thus formed 
upon the sides of crevasses vary greatly in thickness according to 
circumstances — in a single crevasse they may range from a thick- 
ness of less than an inch to more than a foot.J The crevasses close 
up ; the surfaces of their icy w T alls are brought into contact ; they 
regele, and the coalesced films will then appear as veins of pure 
ice in the generally whitish mass of the glacier. When one con- 
siders the myriads of crevasses which there are in any glacier, and 
the incessant opening and closing up that goes forward, it is easy to 
see that a large proportion of the veins of pure ice which consti- 
tute the veined structure of glaciers must be considered as the 
scars of healed crevasses. 

* These veins in icebergs are frequently seen intersecting each other. Dr. Rink 
has shown this in an illustration in his Grbnland Gcographisk og Statistisk, vol. i. 

f Charpentier long ago advanced the opinion that the motion of glaciers was pro- 
moted by freezing of water in crevasses. His notion is commonly regarded as ex- 
ploded, but there may be something in it after all. 

X The same tiling is to be noticed in regard to the blue veins of the veined struc- 
ture. The veins frequently thin out and are lost, or swell into lenticular masses. 
This is best seen when the veins are regarded in vertical sections of the glacier. 


We camped on the Couvercle (7800) under a great rock, and 
at 3.15 the next morning started for our aiguille, leaving the porter 
in charge of the tent and of the food. Two hours' walking over 
crisp snow brought us up more than 4000 feet, and within about 
1600 feet of the summit.* From no other direction can it be 
approached so closely with equal facility. Thence the mountain 
steepens. After his late severe piece of ice-work, Aimer had a 
natural inclination for rocks ; but the lower rocks of the final 
peak of the Verte were not inviting, and he went on and on, 
looking for a way up them, until we arrived in front of a great snow 
couloir that led from the Glacier de Talefre right up to the crest 
of the ridge connecting the summit of the Verte with the mountain 
called Les Droites. This was the route which I intended to be 
taken ; but Aimer pointed out that the gully narrowed at the 
lower part, and that, if stones fell, we should stand some chance 
of getting our heads broken ; and so we went on still more to the 
east of the summit, to another and smaller couloir which ran up 
side by side with the great one. At 5.30 we crossed the schrund 
which protected the final peak, and, a few minutes afterwards, 
saw the summit and the whole of the intervening route. " Oh ! 
Aiguille Verte," said my guide, stopping as he said it, " you are 
dead, you are dead ; " which, being translated into plain English, 
meant that he was cock-sure we should make its ascent. 

Aimer is a quiet man at all times. When climbing he is 
taciturn — and this is one of his great merits. A garrulous man is 
always a nuisance, and upon the mountain-side he may be a danger, 
for actual climbing requires a man's whole attention. Added to 
this, talkative men are hindrances ; they are usually thirsty, and 
a thirstv man is a drap\ 

Guide-books recommend mountain-walkers to suck pebbles, to 
prevent their throats from becoming parched. .There is not much 
goodness to be got out of the pebbles ; but you cannot suck them 

Or, upon the map of the chain of Mont Blanc, to within a third of an inch 

3 A 

of the black triangle which marks the summit 


and keep the mouth open at the same time, and hence the throat 
does not become dry. It answers just as well to keep the mouth 
shut, without any pebbles inside, — indeed, I think, better ; for if 
you have occasion to open your mouth, you can do so without 
swallowing any pebbles. * As a rule, amateurs, and particularly 
novices, will not keep their mouths shut. They attempt to " force 
the pace," they go faster than they can go without being compelled 
to open their mouths to breathe, they pant, their throats and 
tongues become parched, they drink and perspire copiously, and, 
becoming exhausted, declare that the dryness of the air, or the 
rarefaction of the air (everything is laid upon the air), is in fault. 
On several accounts, therefore, a mountain-climber does well to 
hold his tongue when he is at his work. 

At the top of the small gully we crossed over the intervening 
rocks into the large one, and followed it so long as it was filled 
with snow. At last ice replaced snow, and we turned over to the 
rocks upon its left. Charming rocks they were ; granitic in texture, "f" 
gritty, holding the nails well. At 9.45 we parted from them, and 
completed the ascent by a little ridge of snow which descended in 
the direction of the Aiguille du Moine. At 10.15 we stood on the 
summit (13,540), and devoured our bread and cheese with a good 

I have already spoken of the disappointing nature of purely 
panoramic views. That seen from Mont Blanc itself is notoriously 
unsatisfactory. When you are upon that summit you look 
down upon all the rest of Europe. There is nothing to look up to ; 
all is below ; there is no one point for the eye to rest upon. 
The man who is there is somewhat in the position of one who has 
attained all that he desires, — he has nothing to aspire to ; his 

* I heard lately of two well-known mountaineers who, under the influence 
of sudden alarm, swallowed their crystals. I am happy to say that they were 
able to cough them up again. 

f Hand specimens of the highest rocks of the Aiguille Verte cannot be distin- 
guished from granite. The rock is almost identical in quality with that at the 
summit of Mont Dolent, and is probably a granitoid gneiss. 

chap, xviii. VIEW FROM THE SUMMIT. 363 

position must needs be unsatisfactory. Upon the summit of the 
Verte there is not this objection. You see valleys, villages, fields ; 
you see mountains interminable rolling away, lakes resting in 
their hollows ; you hear the tinkling of the sheep-bells as it rises 
through the clear mountain air, and the roar of the avalanches as 
they descend to the valleys : but above all there is the great white 
dome, with its shining crest high above ; with its sparkling glaciers 
that descend between buttresses which support them; with its 
brilliant snows, purer and yet purer the farther they are removed 
from this unclean world. 

Even upon this mountain-top it was impossible to forget the 
world, for some vile wretch came to the Jardin and made hideous 
sounds by blowing upon a horn. Whilst we were denouncing him 
a change came over the weather ; cumulous clouds gathered in all 
directions, and we started off in hot haste. Snow began to fall 
heavily before we were off the summit-rocks, our track was obscured 
and frequently lost, and everything became so sloppy and slippery 
that the descent took as long as the ascent. The schrund was re- 
crossed at 3.15 p.m., and thence we raced down to the Couvercle, 
intending to have a carouse there ; but as we rounded our rock a 
howl broke simultaneously from all three of us, for the porter had 
taken down the tent, and was in the act of moving off with it. 
"Stop, there! what are you doing?" He observed that he had 
thought we were killed, or at least lost, and was going to Chamounix 
to communicate his ideas to the guide chef. " Unfasten the tent, 
and get out the food." But instead of doing so the porter fumbled 
in his pockets. " Get out the food," we roared, losing all patience. 
"Here it is," said our worthy friend, producing a dirty piece of 
bread about as big as a halfpenny roll. We three looked solemnly 
at the fluff-covered morsel. It was past a joke, — he had devoured 
everything. Mutton, loaves, cheese, wine, eggs, sausages — all was 

* The summit of the Aiguille Verte was a snowy dome, large enough for a 
quadrille. I was surprised to see the great height of Les Droites. Captain Mieulet 
places its summit at 13,222 feet, but I think it must be very slightly lower than the 
Verte itself. 


gone — past recovery. It was idle to grumble, and useless to wait. 
We were light, and could move quickly, — the porter was laden 
inside and out. We went our hardest, — he had to shuffle and trot. 
He streamed with perspiration ; the mutton and cheese oozed out 
in big drops, — he larded the glacier. We had our revenge, and 
dried our clothes at the same time, but when we arrived at the Mon- 
tanvert the porter was as wet as we had been upon our arrival at 
the Couvercle. We halted at the inn to get a little food, and at 
a quarter past eight re-entered Chamounix, amidst firing of cannon 
and other demonstrations of satisfaction on the part of the hotel- 

One would have thought that the ascent of this mountain, 
which had been frequently assailed before without success, would 
have afforded some gratification to a population whose chief 
support is derived from tourists, and that the prospect of the 
perennial flow of francs which might be expected to result from 
it would have stifled the jealousy consequent on the success of 

It was not so. Chamounix stood on its rights. A stranger 
had ignored their regulations, had imported two foreign guides, 
and, furthermore, he had added injury to that insult — he had not 
taken a single Chamounix guide. Chamounix would be revenged ! 
It would bully the foreign guides ; it would tell them they had 
]ied, — they had not made the ascent ! Where were their proofs ? 
Where was the flag upon the summit ? 

Poor Aimer and Biener were accordingly chivied from pillar to 
post, from one inn to another, and at length complained to me. 
Peter Perm, the Zermatt guide, said on the night that we returned 
that this was to happen, but the story seemed too absurd to be 
true. I now bade my men go out again, and followed them 
myself to see the sport. Chamounix was greatly excited. The 
bureau of the guide chef was thronged with clamouring men. 

* The Chamounix tariff price for the ascent of the Aiguille is now placed at £4 
per guide. 


Their ringleader — one Zacharie Cachat — a well-known guide, of 
no particular merit, but not a bad fellow, was haranguing the 
multitude. He met with more than his match. My friend 
Kennedy, who was on the spot, heard of the disturbance and 
rushed into the fray, confronted the burly guide, and thrust back 
his absurdities into his teeth. 

There were the materials for a very pretty riot ; but they man- 
age these things better in France than we do, and the gensdarmes — 
three strong — came down and dispersed the crowd. The guides 
quailed before the cocked hats, and retired to cabarets to take little 
glasses of absinthe and other liquors more or less injurious to the 
human frame. Under the influence of these stimulants, they con- 
ceived an idea which combined revenge with profit. " You have 
ascended the Aiguille Verte, you say. We say we don't believe it. 
We say, do it again ! Take three of us with you, and we will bet 
you two thousand francs to one thousand, that you won't make the 
ascent ! " 

This proposition was formally notified to me, but I declined it, 
with thanks, and recommended Kennedy to go in and win. I 
accepted, however, a hundred franc share in the bet, and calcu- 
lated upon getting two hundred per cent on my investment. Alas ! 
how vain are human expectations ! Zacharie Cachat was put into 
confinement, and although Kennedy actually ascended the Aiguille 
a week later, with two Chamounix guides and Peter Perm, the bet 
came to nothing.* 

The weather arranged itself just as this storm in a teapot blew 
over, and we left at once for the Montanvert, in order to show the 
Chamouniards the easiest way over the chain of Mont Blanc, in 
return for the civilities which we had received from them during 
the past three days. 

* It should be said that we received the most polite apologies for this affair from 
the chief of the gensdarmes, and an invitation to lodge a complaint against the ring- 
leaders. We accepted his apologies, and declined his invitation. Needless to add, 
Michel Croz took no part in the demonstration. 




" 'Tis more by art than force of numerous strokes." 


The person who discovered the Col du Geant must have been a 
shrewd mountaineer. The pass was in use before any other was 
known across the main chain of Mont Blanc, and down to the 
present time it remains the easiest and quickest route from Cha- 
mounix to Courmayeur, with the single exception of the pass that 
we crossed upon the 3d of July, for the first time, which lies about 
mid-way between the Aiguille de Triolet and the Aiguille de 
Talefre, and which, for want of a better name, I have called the 
Col de Talefre. 

When one looks toward the upper end of the Glacier de Talefre 
from the direction of the Jardin or of the Couvercle, the ridge that 
bounds the view seems to be of little elevation. It is overpowered 
by the colossal Grandes Jorasses, and by the almost equally magni- 
ficent Aiguille Verte. The ridge, notwithstanding, is by no means 
despicable. At no point is its elevation less than 11,600 feet. It 

chap. xix. THE COL DE TAL&FRE. 367 

does not look anything like this height. The Glacier de Talefre 
mounts with a steady incline, and the eye is completely deceived. 

In 1864, when prowling about with Mr. Beilly, I instinctively 
fixed upon a bent couloir* which led up from the glacier to the 
lowest part of the ridge ; and when, after crossing the Col de 
Triolet, I saw that the other side presented no particular difficulty, 
it seemed to me that this was the one point in the whole of the 
range which would afford an easier passage than the Col du Geant. 

We set out from the Montanvert at 4 a.m. upon July 3, to see 
whether this opinion was correct, and it fortunately happened that 
the Eev. A. G. Girdlestone and a friend, with two Chamounix 
guides, left the inn at the same hour as ourselves, to cross the Col 
du Ge\int. We kept in company as far as our routes lay together, 
and at 9.35 we arrived at the top of our pass, having taken the 
route to the south of the Jardin. Description is unnecessary, as 
our track is laid down very clearly on the engraving at the head 
of this chapter, and upon the map. 

Much snow had fallen during the late bad weather, and as we 
reposed upon the top of our pass (which was about 11,650 feet 
above the level of the sea, and 600 feet above the Col du Geant), 
we saw that the descent of the rocks which intervened between us 
and the Glacier de Triolet would require some caution, for the sun's 
rays poured down directly upon them, and the snow slipped away 
every now and then from ledge to ledge just as if it had been 
water, — in cascades not large enough to be imposing, but sufficient 
to knock us over if we got in their way. This little bit of cliff 
consequently took a longer time than it should have done, for when 
we heard the indescribable swishing, hissing sound which announced 
a coming fall, we of necessity huddled under the lee of the rocks 
until the snow ceased to shoot over us. 

We got to the level of the Glacier de Triolet without misad- 

* This couloir is narrow and not steeply inclined. As a general rule, broad cou- 
loirs should be avoided, as they are usually of ice, if at all steep. Narrow couloirs are 
almost always snowy. 




venture, then steered for its left bank to avoid the upper of its two 
formidable ice-falls, and after descending the requisite distance by 
some old snow lying between the glacier and the cliffs which border 
it, crossed directly to the right bank over the level ice between the 
two ice-falls* The right bank was gained without any trouble, 
and we found there numerous beds of hard snow (avalanche debris) 
down which we could run or glissade as fast as we liked. 

Glissading is a very pleasant employment when it is accom- 
plished successfully, and I have never seen a place where it can be 

more safely indulged in than 
the snowy valley on the right 
bank of the glacier de Triolet. 
In my dreams I glissade de- 
lightfully, but in practice I 
find that somehow the snow 
will not behave properly, and 
that my alpenstock will get 
between my legs. Then my 
legs go where my head should 
be, and I see the sky revolving 
at a rapid pace ; the snow rises 
up and smites me, and runs 
away ; and when it is at last overtaken it suddenly stops, and we 
come into violent collision. Those who are with me say that 1 
tumble head over heels, and there may be some truth in what they 
say. Streaks of ice are apt to make the heels shoot away, and stray 
stones cause one to pitch headlong down. Somehow these things 
always seem to come in the way, so it is as well to glissade only 
when there is something soft to tumble intcf" 

* Below the second ice-fall the glacier is completely covered up with moraine 
matter, and if the left bank is followed, one is compelled either to traverse this howl- 
ing waste or to lose much time upon the tedious and somewhat difficult rocks of 
Mont Rouge. 

+ In glissading an erect position should be maintained, and the point of the alpen- 
stock allowed to trail over the snow. If it is necessary to stop, or to slacken speed, 
the point is pressed against the slope, as shown in the illustration. 


Near the termination of the glacier we could not avoid travers- 
ing a portion of its abominable moraine, but at 1.30 p.m. we were 
clear of it, and threw ourselves upon some springy turf conscious 
that our day's work was over. An hour afterwards we resumed 
the march, crossed the Doire torrent by a bridge a little below 
Gruetta, and at five o'clock entered Courmayeur, having occupied 
somewhat less than ten hours on the way. Mr. Girdlestone's party 
came in, I believe, about four hours afterwards, so there was no 
doubt that we made a shorter pass than the Col du Geant ; and I 
believe we discovered a quicker way of getting from Chamounix to 
Courmayeur, or vice versa, than will be found elsewhere, so long as 
the chain of Mont Blanc remains in its present condition.* 

* Comparison of the Col de Triolet with the Col de Talefre will show what a great 
difference in ease there may be between tracks which are nearly identical. For a dis- 
tance of several miles these routes are scarcely more than half-a-mile apart. Nearly 
every step of the former is difficult, whilst the latter has no difficulty whatever. The 
route we adopted over the Col de Talefre may perhaps be improved. It may be pos- 
sible to go directly from the head of the Glacier de Triolet to its right bank, and, if 
so, at least thirty minutes might be saved. 

The following is a complete list of the so-called passes across the main ridge of 
the range of Mont Blanc, with the years in which the first passages were effected, as 
far as I know them : — 1. Col de Trelatete (1864), between Aig. du Glacier and Aig. 
de Trelatete. 2. Col de Miage, between Aig. de Miage and Aig. de Bionnassay. 3. 
€ol du Dome (1865), over the D6me du Gouter. 4. Col du Mont Blanc (1868), over 
Mont Blanc. 5. Col de la Brenva (1865), between Mont Blanc and Mont Maudit. 
6. Col de la Tour Ronde (1867), over la Tour Ronde. 7. Col du Geant, between la 
Tour Ronde and Aigs. Marbrees. 8. Col Pierre Joseph (1866), over Aig. deTEboule- 
ment. 9. Col de Talefre (1865), between Aigs. Talefre and Triolet. 10. Col de 
Triolet (1864), between Aigs. Talefre and Triolet. 11. Col Dolent (1865), between 
Aig. de Triolet and Mont Dolent, 12. Col d'Argentierc (1861), between Mont 
Dolent and le Tour Noir. 13. Col du Chardonnet (1863), between Aigs. d' Ar- 
gentine and Chardonnet. 14. Col du Tour, between Aigs. du Chardonnet and Tour. 

3 B 



" In almost every art, experience is worth more than precepts." 


All of the excursions that were set down in my programme had 
been carried out, with the exception of the ascent of the Matter- 
horn, and we now turned our faces in its direction, hut instead of 
returning via the Val Tournanche, we took a route across country, 
and bagged upon our way the summit of the Kuinette. 

We passed the night of July 4, at Aosta, under the roof of the 
genial Tairraz, and on the 5th went by the Val d'Ollomont and 
the Col de la Fenetre (9140) to Chermontane.* We slept that 
night at the chalets of Chanrion (a foul spot, which should be 
avoided), left them at 3.50 the next morning, and after a short 
scramble over the slope above, and a half-mile tramp on the glacier 
de Breney, we crossed directly to the Euinette, and went almost 
straight up it. There is not, I suppose, another mountain in the 
Alps of the same height that can be ascended so easily. You have 
only to go ahead : upon its southern side one can walk about 
almost anywhere. 

Though I speak thus slightingly of a very respectable peak, I 
will not do anything of the kind in regard to the view which it 
gives. It is happily placed in respect to the rest of the Pennine 
Alps, and as a stand-point it has not many superiors. You see 
mountains, and nothing but mountains. It is a solemn — some 
would say a dreary — view, but it is very grand. The great Combin 

* For routes, see Map of the Valley of Valpelline, etc. 

chap. xx. VIEW FROM THE RUINETTE. 371 

(14,164), with its noble background of the whole range of Mont 
Blanc, never looks so big as it does from here. In the contrary 
direction, the Matterhorn overpowers all besides. The Dent 
d'Herens, although closer, looks a mere outlier of its great neigh- 
bour, and the snows of Monte Eosa, behind, seem intended for no 
other purpose than to give relief to the crags in front. To the 
south there is an endless array of Bee's and Becca's, backed by the 
great Italian peaks, whilst to the north Mont Pleureur (12,159) 
holds its own against the more distant Wildstrubel. 

We gained the summit at 9.15,* and stayed there an hour and 
a half. My faithful guides then admonished me that Prerayen, 
whither we were bound, was still far away, and that we had yet to 
cross two lofty ridges. So we resumed our harness and departed ; 
not, however, before a huge cairn had been built out of the blocks 
of gneiss with which the summit is bestrewn. Then we trotted 
down the slopes of the Buinette, over the glacier de Breney, and 
across a pass which (if it deserves a name) may be called the Col 
des Portons, after the neighbouring peaks. From thence we pro- 
ceeded across the great Otemma glacier towards the Col d'Olen. 

The part of the glacier that we traversed was overspread with 
snow which completely concealed its numerous pitfalls. We 
marched across it in single file, and, of course, roped together. 
All at once Aimer dropped into a crevasse up to his shoulders. I 
pulled in the rope immediately, but the snow gave way as it was 
being done, and I had to spread out my arms to stop my descent. 
Biener held fast, but said afterwards, that his feet went through as 
well, so, for a moment, all three were in the jaws of the crevasse. 
We now altered our course, so as to take the fissures transversely, 
and after the centre of the glacier was passed changed it again and 
made directly for the summit of the Col d'Olen. 

* After crossing the glacier de Breney, we ascended by some debris, and then by 
some cliffy ground, to the glacier which surrounds the peak upon the south ; bore to 
the left (that is to the west) and went up the edge of the glacier ; and lastly took to 
the arete of the ridge which descends towards the south-west, and followed it to the 
summit (12,727). 


It is scarcely necessary to observe, after what was said upon 
p. 116, that it is my invariable practice to employ a rope when 
traversing a snow-covered glacier. Many guides, even the best 
ones, object to be roped, more especially early in the morning when 
the snow is hard. They object sometimes, because they think it 
is unnecessary. Crevasses that are bridged by snow are almost 
always more or less perceptible by undulations on the surface ; the 
snow droops down, and hollows mark the courses of the chasms 
beneath. An experienced guide usually notices these almost im- 
perceptible wrinkles, steps one side or the other, as the case may 
require, and rarely breaks through unawares. Guides think there 
is no occasion to employ a rope because they think that they will 
not be taken by surprise. Michel Croz used to be of this opinion. 
He used to say that only imbeciles and children required to be 
tied up in the morning. I told him that in this particular matter 
I was a child to him. " You see these things, my good Croz, and 
avoid them. I do not, except you point them out to me, and so 
that which is not a danger to you, is a danger to me." The 
sharper one's eyes get by use, the less is a rope required as a pro- 
tective against these hidden pitfalls ; but, according to my experi- 
ence, the sight never becomes so keen that they can be avoided 
with unvarying certainty, and I mentioned what occurred upon 
the Otemma glacier to show that this is so. 

I well remember my first passage of the Col Theodule — the 
easiest of the higher Alpine glacier passes. We had a rope, but 
my guide said it was not necessary, he knew all the crevasses. 
However, we did not go a quarter of a mile before he dropped 
through the snow into a crevasse up to his neck. He was a heavy 
man, and would scarcely have extricated himself alone ; anyhow, 
he was very glad of my assistance. "When he got on to his legs 
again, he said, " Well, I had no idea that there w T as a crevasse 
there ! " He no longer objected to use the rope, and we proceeded ; 
upon my part, with greater peace of mind than before. I have 
crossed the pass thirteen times since then, and have invariably 
insisted upon being tied together. 


Guides object to the use of the rope upon snow-covered glacier, 
because they are afraid of being laughed at by their comrades ; 
and this, perhaps, is the more common reason. To illustrate this, 
here is another Theodule experience. We arrived at the edge of 
the ice, and I required to be tied. My guide (a Zermatt man of 
repute) said that no one used a rope going across that pass. I 
declined to argue the matter, and we put on the rope ; though 
very much against the wish of my man, who protested that he 
should have to submit to perpetual ridicule if we met any of his 
acquaintances. We had not gone very far before we saw a train 
coming in the contrary direction. "Ah!" cried my man, "there 
is E — (mentioning a guide who used to be kept at the Eiffel 
Hotel for the ascent of Monte Eosa) ; it will be as I said, I shall 
never hear the end of this." The guide we met was followed by a 
string of tom-fools, none of whom were tied together, and had his 
face covered by a mask to prevent it becoming blistered. After 
we had passed, I said, " Now, should E — make any observations 
to you, ask him why he takes such extraordinary care to preserve 
the skin of his face, which will grow again in a week, when he 
neglects such an obvious precaution in regard to his life, which he 
can only lose once." This was quite a new idea to my guide, and 
he said nothing more against the use of the rope so long as we 
were together. 

I believe that the unwillingness to use a rope upon snow- 
covered glacier which born mountaineers not unfrequently exhibit, 
arises — First, on the part of expert men, from the consciousness 
that they themselves incur little risk ; secondly, on the part of 
inferior men, from fear of ridicule, and from aping the ways of 
their superiors ; and, thirdly, from pure ignorance or laziness. 
Whatever may be the reason, I raise up my voice against the 
neglect of a precaution so simple and so effectual. In my opinion, 
the very first thing a glacier traveller requires is plenty of good 

A committee of the English Alpine Club was appointed in 




1864 to test, and to report upon, the most suitable ropes for 
mountaineering purposes, and those which were approved are 
probably as good as can be found. One is made of Manilla and 
another of Italian hemp. The former is the heavier, and weighs 
a little more than an ounce per foot (103 ozs. to 100 feet). The 
latter weighs 79 ozs. per 100 feet ; but I prefer the Manilla rope, 
because it is more handy to handle. Both of these ropes will 
sustain 168 lbs. falling 10 feet, or 196 lbs. falling 8 feet, and they 
break with a dead weight of two tons* In 1865 we carried two 
100 feet lengths of the Manilla rope, and the inconvenience arising 
from its weight was more than made up for by the security which 
it afforded. Upon several occasions it was worth more than an 
extra guide. 

Now, touching the use of the rope. There is a right way, and 
there are wrong ways of using it. I often meet, upon glacier- 
passes, elegantly got-up persons, who are clearly out of their 
element, with a guide stalking along in front, who pays no 
attention to the inno- 
cents in his charge. 
They are tied to- 
gether as a matter of 
form, but they evi- 
dently have no idea 
why they are tied up, 
for they walk side by 
side, or close together, with the rope trailing on the snow. If one 
tumbles into a crevasse, the rest stare, and say, " La ! what is the 
matter with Smith?" unless, as is more likely, they all tumble in 
together. This is the wrong way to use a rope. It is abuse of the 

It is of the first importance to keep the rope taut from man to 
man. There is no real security if this is not done, and your risks 
may be considerably magnified. There is little or no difficulty in 

* Manufactured and sold by Messrs. Buckingham, Broad Street, Bloomsbury. 

chap. xx. ON THE USE OF THE ROPE. 375 

extricating one man who breaks through a bridged crevasse if the 
rope is taut ; but the case may be very awkward if two break 
through at the same moment, close together, and there are only 
two others to aid, or perhaps only one other. Further, the rope 
ought not upon any account to graze over snow, ice, or rocks, 
otherwise the strands suffer, and the Hves of the whole party may 
be endangered. Apart from this, it is extremely annoying to have 
a rope knocking about one's heels. If circumstances render it 
impossible for the rope to be kept taut by itself, the men behind 
should gather it up round their hands,* and not allow it to 
incommode those in advance. A man must either be incompetent, 


careless, or selfish, if he permits the rope to dangle about the heels 
of the person in front of him. 

The distance from man to man must neither be too great nor 
too small. About 12 feet between each is sufficient. If there are 
only two or three persons, it is prudent to allow a little more — 
say 15 feet. More than this is unnecessary, and less than 9 or 10 
feet is not much good. 

It is essential to examine your rope from time to time to see 
that it is in good condition. If you are wise you will do this 
yourself every day. Latterly, I have examined every inch of my 
rope overnight, and upon more than one occasion have found the 
strands of the Manilla rope nearly half severed through accidental 


* For example, when the leader suspects crevasses, and sounds for them, in the 
manner shown in the engraving, he usually loses half a step or more. The second 
man should take a turn of the rope around his hand to draw it back in case the 
leader goes through. 


Thus far the rope has been supposed to be employed upon level, 
snow-covered glacier, to prevent any risk from concealed crevasses. 
On rocks and on slopes it is used for a different purpose (namely, 
to guard against slips), and in these cases it is equally important 
to keep it taut, and to preserve a reasonable distance one from the 
other. It is much more troublesome to keep the rope taut upon 
slopes than upon the level ; and upon difficult rocks it is all but 
impossible, except by adopting the plan of moving only one at a 
time (see p. 170). 

There is no good reason for employing a rope upon easy rocks, 
and I believe that its needless use is likely to promote carelessness. 
On difficult rocks and on snow-slopes (frequently improperly called 
ice-slopes) it is a great advantage to be tied together, provided the 
rope is handled properly ; but upon actual ice-slopes, such as that 
on the Col Dolent (p. 351), or upon slopes in which ice is mingled 
with small and loose rocks, such as the upper part of the Pointe 
des Ecrins (p. 214), it is almost useless, because the slip of one 
person might upset the entire party * I am not prepared to say, 
however, that men should not be tied together upon similar slopes. 
Being attached to others usually gives confidence, and confidence 
decidedly assists stability. It is more questionable whether men 
should be in such places at all. If a man can keep on his feet upon 
an escalier cut in an ice-slope, I see no reason why he should be 

* When several persons are descending such places, it is evident that the last 
man cannot derive any assistance from the rope, and so might as well be untied. 
Partly upon this account, it is usual to place one of the strongest and steadiest men 
last. Now, although this cannot be termed a senseless precaution, it is obvious that 
it is a perfectly useless one, if it is true that a single slip would upset the entire party. 
The best plan I know is that which we adopted on the descent of the Col Dolent, 
namely, to let one man go in advance until he reaches some secure point. This one 
then detaches himself, the rope is drawn up, and another man is sent down to join 
him, and so on until the last. The last man still occupies the most difficult post, 
and should be the steadiest man ; but he is not exposed to any risk from his com- 
rades slipping, and they, of course, draw in the rope as he descends, so that his posi- 
tion is less hazardous than if he were to come down quite by himself. 


debarred from making use of that particular form of staircase. If 
he cannot, let him keep clear of such places. 

There would be no advantage in discoursing upon the use of the 
rope at greater length. A single day upon a mountain's side will 
give a clear idea of the value of a good rope, and of the numerous 
purposes for which it may be employed, than any one will obtain 
from reading all that has been written upon the subject ; but no 
one will become really expert in its management without much 

From the Col d'Olen we proceeded down the Combe of the 
same name to the chalets of Prerayen, and passed the night of the 
6th under the roof of our old acquaintance, the wealthy herdsman. 
On the 7th we crossed the Ya Cornere pass, en route for Breil. 
My thoughts were fixed on the Matterhorn, and my guides knew 
that I wished them to accompany me. They had an aversion to 
the mountain, and repeatedly expressed their belief that it was 
useless to try to ascend it. " Any 'thing but Matterhorn, dear sir ! " 
said Aimer ; " anything but Matterhorn." He did not speak of 
difficulty or of danger, nor was he shirking work. He offered to 
go anywhere; but he entreated that the Matterhorn should be 
abandoned. Both men spoke fairly enough. They did not think 
that an ascent could be made ; and for their own credit, as well as 
for my sake, they did not wish to undertake a business which, in 
their opinion, would only lead to loss of time and money. 

* Upon this subject I refer the reader back to p. 113. If you are out upon an 
excursion, and find the work becoming so arduous that you have great difficulty in 
maintaining your balance, you should at once retire, and not imperil the lives of 
others. I am well aware that the withdrawal of one person for such reasons would 
usually necessitate the retreat of a second, and that expeditions would be often cut 
short if this were to happen. With the fear of this before their eyes, I believe that 
many amateurs continue to go on, albeit well convinced that they ought not. They 
do not wish to stop the sport of their comrades ; but they frequently suffer mental 
tortures in consequence, which most emphatically do not assist their stability,' and 
are likely to lead to something even more disagreeable than the abandonment of the 
excursion. The moral is, take an adequate number of guides. 

3 c 


I sent them by the short cut to Breil, and walked down to 
Val Tournanche to look for Jean-Antoine Carrel. He was not 
there. The villagers said that he, and three others, had started on 
the 6th to try the Matterhorn by the old way, on their own 
account. They will have no luck, I thought, for the clouds were 
low down on the mountains ; and I walked up to Breil, fully 
expecting to meet them. Nor was I disappointed. About half- 
way up I saw a group of men clustered around a chalet upon the 
other side of the torrent, and, crossing over, found that the party 
had returned. Jean-Antoine and Caesar were there, C. E. Gorret, 
and J. J. Maquignaz. They had had no success. The weather, 
they said, had been horrible, and they had scarcely reached the 
glacier du Lion. 

I explained the situation to Carrel, and proposed that we, 
with Csesar and another man, should cross the Theodule by moon- 
light on the 9th, and that upon the 10th we should pitch the tent 
as high as possible upon the east face. He was unwilling to 
abandon the old route, and urged me to try it again. I promised 
to do so provided the new route failed. This satisfied him, and he 
agreed to my proposal. I then went up to Breil, and discharged 
Aimer and Biener — with much regret, for no two men ever served 
me more faithfully or more willingly.* On the next day they 
crossed to Zermatt. 

The 8th was occupied with preparations. The weather was 
stormy ; and black, rainy vapours obscured the mountains. Towards 
evening a young man came from Val Tournanche, and reported 
that an Englishman was lying there, extremely ill. Now was the 
time for the performance of my vow;*[* and on the morning of 
Sunday the 9th I went down the valley to look after the sick man. 
On my way I passed a foreign gentleman, with a mule and several 
porters laden with baggage. Amongst these men were Jean- 

* During the preceding eighteen days (I exclude Sundays and other non- 
working days) we ascended more than 100,000 feet, and descended 98,000 feet. 
t See p. 122. 


Antoine and Caesar, carrying some barometers. " Hnllo ! " I said, 
"what are you doing?" They explained that the foreigner had 
arrived just as they were setting out, and that they were assisting 
his porters. " Very well ; go on to Breil, and await me there ; we 
start at midnight as agreed." Jean- Antoine then said that he 
should not be able to serve me after Tuesday the 11th, as he was 
engaged to travel "with a family of distinction" in the valley of 
Aosta. "And Caesar?" "And Caesar also." "Why did you not 
say this before?" "Because," said he, "it was not settled. The 
engagement is of long standing, but the day was not fixed. When 
I got back to Val Tournanche on Friday night, after leaving you, I 
found a letter naming the day." I could not object to the answer ; 
but the prospect of being left guideless was provoking. They 
went up, and I down, the valley. 

The sick man declared that he was better, though the exertion 
of saying as much tumbled him over on to the floor in a fainting fit. 
He was badly in want of medicine, and I tramped down to Cha- 
tillon to get it. It was late before I returned to Val Tournanche, 
for the weather was tempestuous, and rain fell in torrents. A figure 
passed me under the church-porch. " Qui vive ? " " Jean- Antoine." 
I thought you were at Breil." " 'No, sir : when the storms came on 
I knew we should not start to-night, and so came down to sleep 
here." " Ha, Carrel !" I said ; " this is a great bore. If to-morrow 
is not fine we shall not be able to do anything together. I have 
sent away my guides, relying on you ; and now you are going to 
leave me to travel with a party of ladies. That work is not fit for 
you (he smiled, I supposed at the implied compliment) ; can't you 
send some one else instead?" "No, monsieur. I am sorry, but 
my word is pledged. I should like to accompany you, but I 
can't break my engagement." By this time we had arrived at the 
inn door. " Well, it is no fault of yours. Come presently with 
Caesar, and have some wine." They came, and we sat up till 
midnight, recounting our old adventures, in the inn of Val 


The weather continued bad upon the 10th, and I returned to 
Breil. The two Carrels were again hovering about the above men- 
tioned chalet, and I bade them adieu. In the evening the sick man 
crawled up, a good deal better ; but his was the only arrival. The 
Monday crowd* did not cross the Theodule, on account of the con- 
tinued storms. The inn was lonely. I went to bed early, and was 
awoke the next morning by the invalid inquiring if I had " heard 
the news." " No ; what news ?" " Why," said he, " a large party 
of guides went off this morning to try the Matterhorn, taking with 
them a mule laden with provisions." 

I went to the door, and with a telescope saw the party upon 
the lower slopes of the mountain. Favre, the landlord, stood by. 
"What is all this about?" I inquired, "who is the leader of this 
party?" "Carrel." "What! Jean-Antoine?" "Yes; Jean- 
Antoine." " Is Caesar there too ?" " Yes, he is there." Then I saw 
in a moment that I had been bamboozled and humbugged ; and 
learned, bit by bit, that the affair had been arranged long before- 
hand. The start on the 6th had been for a preliminary reconnais- 
sance ; the mule, that I passed, was conveying stores for the attack ; 
the 'family of distinction' was Signor F. Giordano, who had just 
despatched the party to facilitate the way to the summit, and who, 
when the facilitation was completed, was to be taken to the top 
along with Signor Sella ! -f- 

I was greatly mortified. My plans were upset ; the Italians 
had clearly stolen a march upon me, and I saw that the astute 
Favre chuckled over my discomfiture, because the route by the 
eastern face, if successful, would not benefit his inn. What was to 
be done ? I retired to my room, and soothed by tobacco, re-studied 
my plans, to see if it was not possible to outmanoeuvre the Italians. 
" They have taken a mule's load of provisions." That is one point 

* Tourists usually congregate at Zermatt upon Sundays, and large gangs and 
droves cross the Theodule pass on Mondays. 

+ The Italian Minister. Signor Giordano had undertaken the business arrange- 
ments for Signor Sella. 


in my favour, for they will take two or three days to get through 
the food, and, until that is done, no work will be accomplished." 
" How is the weather ?" I went to the window. The mountain was 
smothered up in mist. " Another point in my favour." " They are 
to facilitate the way. Well, if they do that to any purpose, it will 
be a long job." Altogether, I reckoned that they could not pos- 
sibly ascend the mountain and come back to Breil in less than 
seven days. I got cooler, for it was evident that the wily ones 
might be outwitted after all. There was time enough to go to 
Zermatt, to try the eastern face, and, should it prove impracticable, 
to come back to Breil before the men returned ; and then, it seemed 
to me, as the mountain was not padlocked, one might start at the 
same time as the Messieurs, and yet get to the top before them. 

The first thing to do was to go to Zermatt. Easier said than 
done. The seven guides upon the mountain included the ablest 
men in the valley, and none of the ordinary muleteer-guides were 
at Breil. Two men, at least, were wanted for my baggage, but not 
a soul could be found. I ran about, and sent about in all direc- 
tions, but not a single porter could be obtained. One was with 
Carrel ; another was ill ; another was at Chatillon, and so forth. 
Even Meynet, the hunchback, could not be induced to come ; he 
was in the thick of some important cheese-making operations. I 
was in the position of a general without an army ; it was all very 
well to make plans, but there was no one to execute them. This 
did not much trouble me, for it was evident that so long as the 
weather stopped traffic over the Theodule, it would hinder the men 
equally upon the Matterhorn ; and I knew that directly it improved 
company would certainly arrive. 

About midday on Tuesday the 11th a large party hove in sight 
from Zermatt, preceded by a nimble young Englishman, and one of 
old Peter Taugwalder' s sons* I went at once to this gentleman to 
learn if he could dispense with Taugwalder. He said that he 

* Peter Taugwalder, the father, is called old Peter, to distinguish him from his 
eldest son, young Peter. In 1865 the father's age was about 45. 


could not, as they were going to recross to Zermatt on the morrow, 
but that the young man should assist in transporting my baggage, 
as he had nothing to carry. We naturally got into conversation. 
I told my story, and learned that the young Englishman was Lord 
Francis Douglas,* whose recent exploit — the ascent of the Gabel- 
horn — had excited my wonder and admiration. He brought good 
news. Old Peter had lately been beyond the Hornli, and had re- 
ported that he thought an ascent of the Matterhorn was possible 
upon that side. Aimer had left Zermatt, and could not be recovered, 
so I determined to seek for old Peter. Lord Francis Douglas 
expressed a warm desire to ascend the mountain, and before long 
it was determined that he should take part in my expedition. 

Favre could no longer hinder our departure, and lent us one of 
his men. We crossed the Col Theodule on Wednesday morning 
the 12th of July, rounded the foot of the Ober Theodulgletscher, 
crossed the Furggengletscher, and deposited tent, blankets, ropes, 
and other matters in the little chapel at the Schwarzsee.-)* All 
four were heavily laden, for we brought across the whole of my 
stores from Breil. Of rope alone there was about 600 feet. There 
were three kinds. First, 200 feet of the Manilla rope ; second, 
150 feet of a stouter, and probably stronger rope than the first ; 
and third, more than 200 feet of a lighter and weaker rope than 
the first, of a kind that I used formerly (stout sash-line). 

We descended to Zermatt, sought and engaged old Peter, and 
gave him permission to choose another guide. When we returned 
to the Monte Eosa Hotel, whom should we see sitting upon the 
wall in front but my old guide chef, Michel Croz. I supposed that 

he had come with Mr. B , but I learned that that gentleman 

had arrived in ill health, at Chamounix, and had returned to 
England. Croz, thus left free, had been immediately engaged by 
the Eev. Charles Hudson, and they had come to Zermatt with the 

* Brother of the present Marquis of Queensberry. 

t For route, and the others mentioned in the subsequent chapters, see map of 
the Matterhorn and its glaciers. 


same object as ourselves — namely, to attempt the ascent of the 
Matterhorn ! 

Lord Francis Douglas and I dined at the Monte Eosa, and had 
just finished when Mr. Hudson and a friend entered the salle d 
manger. They had returned from inspecting the mountain, and 
some idlers in the room demanded their intentions. We heard a 
confirmation of Croz's statement, and learned that Mr. Hudson in- 
tended to set out on the morrow at the same hour as ourselves. 
We left the room to consult, and agreed it was undesirable that 
two independent parties should be on the mountain at the same 
time with the same object. Mr. Hudson was therefore invited to 
join us, and he accepted our proposal. Before admitting his friend 
— Mr. Hadow — I took the precaution to inquire what he had done 
in the Alps, and, as well as I remember, Mr, Hudson's reply was, 
" Mr. Hadow has done Mont Blanc in less time than most men." 
He then mentioned several other excursions that were unknown to 
me, and added, in answer to a further question, " I consider he is a 
sufficiently good man to go with us." Mr. Hadow was admitted 
without any further question, and we then went into the matter 
of guides. Hudson thought that Croz and old Peter would be 
sufficient. The question was referred to the men themselves, and 
they made no objection. 

So Croz and I became comrades once more ; and as I threw 
myself on my bed and tried to go to sleep, I wondered at the 
strange series of chances which had first separated us and then 
brought us together again. I thought of the mistake through 
which he had accepted the engagement to Mr. B ; of his un- 
willingness to adopt my route ; of his recommendation to transfer 
our energies to the chain of Mont Blanc ; of the retirement of 
Aimer and Biener ; of the desertion of Carrel ; of the arrival of 
Lord Francis Douglas ; and, lastly, of our accidental meeting at 
Zermatt ; and as I pondered over these things I could not help 
asking, " What next ?" If any one of the links of this fatal chain 
of circumstances had been omitted, what a different story I should 
have to tell ! 



1 ' Had we succeeded well, 
We had been reckoned 'mongst the wise : our minds 
Are so disposed to judge from the event. " 


"It is a thoroughly unfair, "but an ordinary custom, to praise or blame designs 
(which in themselves may be good or bad) just as they turn out well or ill, Hence 
the same actions are at one time attributed to earnestness and at another to vanity." 

Pliny Min. 

We started from Zermatt on the 13th of July, at half-past 5, on a 
brilliant and perfectly cloudless morning. We were eight in 
number — Croz, old Peter and his two sons,* Lord F. Douglas, 
Hadow, Hudson,*f* and I. To ensure steady motion, one tourist and 

* The two young Taugwalders were taken as porters, by desire of their father, and 
carried provisions amply sufficient for three days, in case the ascent should prove 
more troublesome than we anticipated. 

f I remember speaking about pedestrianism to a well-known mountaineer some 
years ago, and venturing to remark that a man who averaged thirty miles a-day might 
be considered a good walker. "A fair walker," he said, "a, fair walker." " What 
then would you consider good walking?" "Well," he replied, "I will tell you. 
Some time back a friend and I agreed to go to Switzerland, but a short time after- 
wards he wrote to say he ought to let me know that a young and delicate lad was 
going with him who would not be equal to great things, in fact, he would not be able 
to do more than fifty miles a-day ! " " What became of the young and delicate lad ?" 
"He lives." " And who was your extraordinary friend ? " " Charles Hudson." I 
have every reason to believe that the gentlemen referred to were equal to walking 
more than fifty miles a-day, but the)' were exceptional, not good pedestrians. 

Charles Hudson, Vicar of Skillington in Lincolnshire, was considered by the 
mountaineering fraternity to be the best amateur of his time. He was the organiser 
and leader of the party of Englishmen who ascended Mont Blanc by the Aig. du 
Gouter, and descended by the Grands Mulets route, without guides, in 1855. His 

chap. xxi. THE START FROM ZERMATT. 385 

one native walked together. The youngest Taugwalder fell to my 
share, and the lad marched well, proud to be on the expedition, 
and happy to show his powers. The wine-bags also fell to my lot 
to carry, and throughout the day, after each drink, I replenished 
them secretly with water, so that at the next halt they were found 
fuller than before ! This was considered a good omen, and little 
short of miraculous. 

On the first day we did not intend to ascend to any great 
height, and we mounted, accordingly, very leisurely ; picked up the 
things which were left in the chapel at the Schwarzsee at 8.20, 
and proceeded thence along the ridge connecting the Hornli with 
the Matterhorn."* At half-past 11 we arrived at the base of the 
actual peak ; then quitted the ridge, and clambered round some 

long practice made him surefooted, and in that respect he was not greatly inferior to 
a born mountaineer. I remember him as a well-made man of middle height and age, 
neither stout nor thin, with face pleasant — though grave, and with quiet unassuming 
manners. Although an athletic man, he would have been overlooked in a crowd ; 
and although he had done the greatest mountaineering feats which have been done, 
he was the last man to speak of his own doings. His friend Mr. Hadow was a young 
man of nineteen, who had the looks and manners of a greater age. He was a rapid 
walker, but 1865 was his first season in the Alps. Lord Francis Douglas was about 
the same age as Mr. Hadow. He had had the advantage of several seasons in the 
Alps. He was nimble as a deer, and was becoming an expert mountaineer. Just 
before our meeting he had ascended the Ober Gabelhorn (with old Peter and Jos. 
Viennin), and this gave me a high opinion of his powers ; for I had examined that 
mountain all round, a few weeks before, and had declined its ascent on account of its 
apparent difficulty. 

My personal acquaintance with Mr. Hudson was very slight — still I should have 
been content to have placed myself under his orders if he had chosen to claim the 
position to which he was entitled. Those who knew him will not be surprised to 
learn that, so far from doing this, he lost no opportunity of consulting the wishes 
and opinions of those around him. We deliberated together whenever there was 
occasion, and our authority was recognised by the others. Whatever responsibility 
there was devolved upon us. I recollect with satisfaction that there was no difference 
of opinion between us as to w T hat should be done, and that the most perfect harmony 
existed between all of us so long as we w-ere together. 

* Arrived at the chapel 7.30 a.m. ; left it, 8.20 ; halted to examine route 9.30 ; 
started again 10.25, and arrived at 11.20 at the cairn made by Mr. Kennedy in 1862 
(see p. 97), marked 10,820 feet upon the map. Stopped 10 min. here. From the 

3 D 


ledges, on to the eastern face. We were now fairly npon the moun- 
tain, and were astonished to find that places which from the Eiffel, 
or even from the Furggengletscher, looked entirely impracticable, 
were so easy that we could run about. 

Before twelve o'clock we had found a good position for the 
tent, at a height of 11,000 feet* Croz and young Peter went on 
to see what was above, in order to save time on the following morn- 
ing. They cut across the heads of the snow-slopes which descended 
towards the Furggengletscher, and disappeared round a corner ; but 
shortly afterwards we saw them high up on the face, moving 
quickly. We others made a solid platform for the tent in a well- 
protected spot, and then watched eagerly for the return of the 
men. The stones which they upset told that they were very high, 
and we supposed that the way must be easy. At length, just 
before 3 p.m., we saw them coming down, evidently much excited. 
"What are they saying, Peter?" "Gentlemen, they say it is no 
good." But when they came near we heard a different story. 
" Nothing but what was good ; not a difficulty, not a single diffi- 
culty ! We could have gone to the summit and returned to-day 
easily !" 

We passed the remaining hours of daylight — some basking in 
the sunshine, some sketching or collecting ; and when the sun went 
down, giving, as it departed, a glorious promise for the morrow, we 
returned to the tent to arrange for the night. Hudson made tea, 
I coffee, and we then retired each one to his blanket-bag ; the Taug- 
walders, Lord Francis Douglas, and myself, occupying the tent, the 

Hornli to this point we kept, when possible, to the crest of the ridge. The greater 
part of the way was excessively easy, but there were a few places where the axe had 
to be used. 

* Thus far the guides did not once go to the front. Hudson or I led, and when 
any cutting was required we did it ourselves. This was done to spare the guides, and 
to show them that we were thoroughly in earnest. The spot at which we camped 
was just four hours' walking from Zermatt, and is marked upon the map — camp (1865). 
It was just upon a level with the Furggengrat, and its position is indicated upon the 
engraving facing p. 285 by a little circular white spot, in a line with the word CAMr. 


others remaining, by preference, outside. Long after dusk the 
cliffs above echoed with our laughter and with the songs of the 
guides, for we were happy that night in camp, and feared no evil. 

We assembled together outside the tent before dawn on the 
morning of the 14th, and started directly it was light enough to 
move. Young Peter came on with us as a guide, and his brother 
returned to Zermatt.* We followed the route which had been 
taken on the previous day, and in a few minutes turned the rib 
which had intercepted the view of the eastern face from our tent 
platform. The whole of this great slope was now revealed, rising 
for 3000 feet like a huge natural staircase.-)- Some parts were more, 
and others were less, easy ; but we were not once brought to a halt 
by any serious impediment, for when an obstruction was met in 
front it could always be turned to the right or to the left. For the 
greater part of the way there was, indeed, no occasion for the rope, 
and sometimes Hudson led, sometimes myself. At 6.20 we had 
attained a height of 12,800 feet, and halted for half-an-hour ; we 
then continued the ascent without a break until 9.55, when we 
stopped for 50 minutes, at a height of 14,000 feet. Twice we 
struck the KE. ridge, and followed it for some little distance,! — to 
no advantage, for it was usually more rotten and steep, and always 
more difficult than the face.§ Still, we kept near to it, lest stones 
perchance might fall. || 

* It was originally intended to leave both of the young men behind. We found it 
difficult to divide the food, and so the new arrangement was made. 

t See pp. 285-9. 

J For track, see the lower of the outlines facing p. 288. 

§ See remarks on aretes and faces on pp. 265-6. There is very little to choose 
between in the aretes leading from the summit towards the Hornli (N.E. ridge) and 
towards the Col du Lion (S.W. ridge). Both are jagged, serrated ridges, which any 
experienced climber would willingly avoid if he could find another route. On the 
northern (Zermatt) side the eastern face affords another route, or any number of 
routes, since there is hardly a part of it which cannot be traversed ! On the southern 
(Breil) side the ridge alone, generally speaking, can be followed ; and when it becomes 
impracticable, and the climber is forced to bear down to the right or to the left, the 
work is of the most difficult character. 

|| Very few stones fell during the two days 1 was on the mountain, and none came 


We had now arrived at the foot of that part which, from the 
Eiffelberg or from Zermatt, seems perpendicular or overhanging, 
and could no longer continue upon the eastern side. For a little 
distance we ascended by snow upon the arete* — that is, the ridge 
— descending towards Zermatt, and then, by common consent, 
turned over to the right, or to the northern side. Before doing so, 
we made a change in the order of ascent. Croz went first, I 
followed, Hudson came third ; Hadow and old Peter were last. 
" Now," said Croz, as he led off, " now for something altogether 
different." The work became difficult, and required caution. In 
some places there was little to hold, and it was desirable that 
those should be in front who were least likely to slip. The 
general slope of the mountain at this part was less than 40 , and 
snow had accumulated in, and had filled up, the interstices of the 
rock-face, leaving only occasional fragments projecting here and 
there. These were at times covered with a thin film of ice, 
produced from the melting and refreezing of the snow. It was 
the counterpart, on a small scale, of the upper 700 feet of the 
Pointe des Ecrins, — only there was this material difference; the 
face of the Ecrins was about, or exceeded, an angle of 50°, and the 
Matterhorn face was less than 40°.")" It was a place over which 

near us. Others who have followed the same route have not been so fortunate ; they 
may not, perhaps, have taken the same precautions. It is a noteworthy fact, that the 
lateral moraine of the left bank of the Furggengletscher is scarcely larger than that of 
the right bank, although the former receives all the debris that falls from the 4000 
feet of cliffs which form the eastern side of the Matterhorn, whilst the latter is fed by 
perfectly insignificant slopes. Neither of these moraines is large. This is strong evi- 
dence that stones do not fall to any great extent from the eastern face. The inward dip 
of the beds retains the detritus in place. Hence the eastern face appears, when one 
is upon it, to be undergoing more rapid disintegration than the other sides : in reality, 
the mantle of ruin spares the mountain from farther waste. Upon the southern side, 
rocks fall as they are rent off ; " each day's work is cleared away" every day ; and hence 
the faces and ridges are left naked, and exposed to fresh attacks. 

* The snow seen in the engraving facing p. 285, half-an-inch below the summit, 
and a little to its left. 

t This part was less steeply inclined than the whole of the eastern face. 

chap. xxi. ARRIVAL ON THE SUMMIT. 389 

any fair mountaineer might pass in safety, and Mr, Hudson 
ascended this part, and, as far as I know, the entire mountain, 
without having the slightest assistance rendered to him upon any 
occasion. Sometimes, after I had taken a hand from Croz, or 
received a pull, I turned to offer the same to Hudson ; but he 
invariably declined, saying it was not necessary. Mr. Hadow, 
however, was not accustomed to this kind of work, and required 
continual assistance. It is only fair to say that the difficulty 
which he found at this part arose simply and entirely from want 
of experience. 

This solitary difficult part was of no great extent .* We bore 
away over it at first, nearly horizontally, for a distance of about 
400 feet ; then ascended directly towards the summit for about 
60 feet ; and then doubled back to the ridge which descends 
towards Zermatt. A long stride round a rather awkward corner 
brought us to snow once more. The last doubt vanished ! The 
Matterhorn was ours ! Nothing but 200 feet of easy snow remained 
to be surmounted ! 

You must now carry your thoughts back to the seven Italians 
who started from Breil on the 11th of July. Four days had 
passed since their departure, and we were tormented with anxiety 
lest they should arrive on the top before us. All the way up 
we had talked of them, and many false alarms of " men on the 
summit" had been raised. The higher we rose, the more intense 
became the excitement. What if we should be beaten at the last 
moment ? The slope eased off, at length we could be detached, 
and Croz and I, dashing away, ran a neck-and-neck race, which 
ended in a dead heat. At 1.40 p.m. the world was at our feet, and 
the Matterhorn was conquered. Hurrah ! Not a footstep could 
be seen. 

It was not yet certain that we had not been beaten. The 
summit of the Matterhorn was formed of a rudely level ridge, 

* I have no memorandum of the time that it occupied. It must have taken 
about an hour and a half. 



chap, xx r. 

about 350 feet long* and the Italians might have been at its 
farther extremity. I hastened to the southern end, scanning the 
snow right and left eagerly. Hurrah ! again ; it was untrodden. 
"Where were the men?" I peered over the cliff, half doubting, 
half expectant. I saw them immediately — mere dots on the ridge, 

" CKOZ ! CROZ ! ! COME HERE ! " 

at an immense distance below. Up went my arms and my hat. 

* The highest points are towards the two ends. In 1865 the northern end was 
slightly higher than the southern one. In bygone years Carrel and 1 often suggested 
to each other that we might one day arrive upon the top, and find ourselves cut off 
from the very highest point by a notch in the summit-ridge which is seen from the 
Theodule and from Breil (marked D on the outline on p. 128). This notch is very 
conspicuous from below, but when one is actually upon the summit it is hardly 
noticed, and it can be passed without the least difficulty. 


" Croz ! Croz ! ! come here!" "Where are they, Monsieur?" 
" There, don't you see them, down there ?." " Ah ! the coquins, 
they are low down." " Croz, we must make those fellows hear us." 
We yelled until we were hoarse. The Italians seemed to regard us 
— we could not be certain. " Croz, we must make them hear us ; 
they shall hear us I" I seized a block of rock and hurled it down, 
and called upon my companion, in the name of friendship, to do 
the same. We drove our sticks in, and prized away the crags, and 
soon a torrent of stones poured down the cliffs. There was no 
mistake about it this time. The Italians turned and fled * 

Still, I would that the leader of that party could have stood 
with us at that moment, for our victorious shouts conveyed to him 
the disappointment of the ambition of a lifetime. He was the man, 
of all those who attempted the ascent of the Matterhorn, who most 
deserved to be the first upon its summit. He was the first to 
doubt its inaccessibility, and he was the only man who persisted in 
believing that its ascent would be accomplished. It was the aim 
of his life to make the ascent from the side of Italy, for the honour 
of his native valley. For a time he had the game in his hands : 
he played it as he thought best ; but he made a false move, and he 
lost it. Times have changed with Carrel. His supremacy is ques- 
tioned in the Val Tournanche ; new men have arisen ; and he is no 
longer recognised as the chasseur above all others : but so long as 
he remains the man that he is to-day, it will not be easy to find his 

The others had arrived, so we went back to the northern end 
of the ridge. Croz now took the tent-pole, -J- and planted it in the 
highest snow. "Yes," we said, "there is the flag-staff, but where 
is the flag ?" " Here it is," he answered, pulling off his blouse and 

* I have learnt since from J. -A. Carrel that they heard our first cries. They 
were then upon the south-west ridge, close to the 'Cravate,' and twelve hundred and 
fifty feet below us ; or, as the crow flies, at a distance of about one-third of a mile. 

t At our departure the men were confident that the ascent would be made, and 
took one of the poles out of the tent. I protested that it was tempting Providence ; 
they took the pole, nevertheless. 



chap, xx r. 

fixing it to the stick. It made a poor flag, and there was no wind 
to float it out, yet it was seen all around. They saw it at Zermatt — 
at the Eiffel — in the Val Tournanche. At Breil, the watchers 
cried, "Victory is ours!" They raised 'bravos' for Carrel, and 
' vivas' for Italy, and hastened to put themselves en fete. On the 


■^ m- m 

H " .twin i'V v.' 



morrow they were undeceived. " All was changed ; the explorers 
returned sad — cast down — disheartened- — confounded — gloomy." 
" It is true," said the men. " We saw them ourselves — they hurled 
stones at us ! The old traditions are true, — there are spirits on 
the top of the Matterhorn !"* 

* Signor Giordano was naturally disappointed at the result, and wished the men 
to start again. Tliey all refused to do so, ivith the exception of Jean-Antoine. Upon 
the 16th of July he set out again with three others, and upon the 17th gained the 

chap. xxi. MARVELLOUS PANORAMA. 393 

We returned to the southern end of the ridge to build a cairn, 
and then paid homage to the view* The day was one of those 
superlatively calm and clear ones which usually precede bad 
weather. The atmosphere was perfectly still, and free from all 
clouds or vapours. Mountains fifty — nay a hundred — miles off, 
looked sharp and near. All their details — ridge and crag, snow 
and glacier — stood out with faultless definition. Pleasant thoughts 
of happy days in bygone years came up unbidden, as we recognised 
the old, familiar forms. All were revealed — not one of the princi- 

summit by passing (at first) up the south-west ridge, and (afterwards) by turning over 
to the Z'Mutt, or north-western side. On the 18th he returned to Breil. 

Whilst we were upon the southern end of the summit-ridge, we paid some atten- 
tion to the portion of the mountain which intervened between ourselves and the 
Italian guides. It seemed as if there would not be the least chance for them if they 
should attempt to storm the final peak directly from the end of the ' shoulder.' In 
that direction cliffs fell sheer down from the summit, and we were unable to see 
beyond a certain distance. There remained the route about which Carrel and I had 
often talked, namely, to ascend directly at first from the end of the ' shoulder, ' and 
afterwards to swerve to the left — that is, to the Z'Mutt side — and to complete the 
ascent from the north-west. When we were upon the summit we laughed at this 
idea. The part of the mountain that I have described upon p. 388, was not easy, 
although its inclination was moderate. If that slope were made only ten degrees 
steeper, its difficulty would be enormously increased. To double its inclination would 
be to make it impracticable. The slope at the southern end of the summit-ridge, 
falling towards the north-west, was much steeper than that over which we passed, and 
we ridiculed the idea that any person should attempt to ascend in that direction, when 
the northern route was so easy. Nevertheless, the summit was reached by that route 
by the undaunted Carrel. From knowing the final slope over which he passed, and 
from the account of Mr. F. C. Grove— who is the only traveller by whom it has been 
traversed — I do not hesitate to term the ascent of Carrel and Bich in 1 865 the most 
desperate piece of mountain-scrambling upon record. In 1869 I asked Carrel if 
he had ever done anything more difficult. His reply was, "Man cannot do any- 
thing much more difficult than that ! " See Appendix. 

* The summit-ridge was much shattered, although not so extensively as the 
south-w r est and north-east ridges. The highest rock, in 1865, was a block of mica- 
schist, and the fragment I broke off it not only possesses, in a remarkable degree, 
the character of the peak, but mimics, in an astonishing manner, the details of its 
form. (See illustration on page 395.) 

3 E 


pal peaks of the Alps was hidden* I see them clearly now — the 
great inner circles of giants, backed by the ranges, chains, and 
massifs. First came the Dent Blanche, hoary and grand ; the Ga- 
belhorn and pointed Bothhorn ; and then the peerless Weisshorn : 
the towering Mischabelhorner, flanked by the Allaleinhorn, Strahl- 
horn, and Eimpfischhorn ; then Monte Eosa — with its many 
Spitzes — the Lyskamm and the Breithorn. Behind were the Ber- 
nese Oberland, governed by the Finsteraarhorn ; the Simplon and 
St. Gothard groups ; the Disgrazia and the Orteler. Towards the 
south we looked down to Chivasso on the plain of Piedmont, and 
far beyond. The Viso — one hundred miles away — seemed close 
upon us ; the Maritime Alps — one hundred and thirty miles dis- 
tant — were free from haze. Then came my first love — the Pel- 
voux ; the Ecrins and the Meije ; the clusters of the Graians ; and 
lastly, in the west, gorgeous in the full sunlight, rose the monarch 
of all — Mont Blanc. Ten thousand feet beneath us were the green 
fields of Zermatt, dotted with chalets, from which blue smoke rose 
lazily. Eight thousand feet below, on the other side, were the 
pastures of Breil. There were forests black and gloomy, and 
meadows bright and lively ; bounding waterfalls and tranquil 
lakes ; fertile lands and savage wastes ; sunny plains and frigid 
plateaux. There were the most rugged forms, and the most grace- 
ful outlines — bold, perpendicular cliffs, and gentle, undulating- 
slopes ; rocky mountains and snowy mountains, sombre and solemn, 
or glittering and white, with walls — turrets — pinnacles — pyramids 
— domes — cones — and spires ! There was every combination that 
the world can give, and every contrast that the heart could desire. 
We remained on the summit for one hour — 

" One crowded hour of glorious life." 

It passed away too quickly, and we began to prepare for the 

* It is most unusual to see the southern half of the panorama unclouded. A 
hundred ascents may he made before this will be the ease again. 




Hudson and I again consulted as to the best and safest arrange- 
ment of the party. We agreed that it would be best for Croz to 
go first, t and Hadow second ; Hudson, who was almost equal to a 
guide in sureness of foot, wished to be third ; Lord F. Douglas was 
placed next, and old Peter, the strongest of the remainder, after 
him. I suggested to Hudson that we should attach a rope to the 
rocks on our arrival at the difficult bit, and hold it as we descended, 
as an additional protection. He approved the idea, but it was not 
definitely settled that it should be done. The party was being 

* The substance of Chapter XXII. appeared in a letter in the Times, August 8, 
1865. A few paragraphs have now been added, and a few corrections have been made. 
The former will help to mate clear that which was obscure in the original account, 
and the latter are, mostly, unimportant. 

f If the members of the party had been more equally efficient, Croz would have 
been placed last. 


arranged in the above order whilst I was sketching the summit, 
and they had finished, and were waiting for me to be tied in line, 
when some one remembered that our names had not been left in a 
bottle. They requested me to write them down, and moved off 
while it was being done. 

A few minutes afterwards I tied myself to young Peter, ran- 
down after the others, and caught them just as they were com- 
mencing the descent of the difficult part * Great care was being 
taken. Only one man was moving at a time ; when he was firmly 
planted the next advanced, and so on. They had not, however, 
attached the additional rope to rocks, and nothing was said about 
it. The suggestion was not made for my own sake, and I am not 
sure that it even occurred to me again. For some little distance 
we two followed the others, detached from them, and should have 
continued so had not Lord F. Douglas asked me, about 3 p.m., to 
tie on to old Peter, as he feared, he said, that Taugwalder would 
not be able to hold his ground if a slip occurred. 

A few minutes later, a sharp-eyed lad ran into the Monte Eosa 
hotel, to Seiler, saying that he had seen an avalanche fall from the 
summit of the Matterhorn on to the Matterhorngletscher. The boy 
was reproved for telling idle stories ; he was right, nevertheless, 
and this was what he saw. 

Michel Croz had laid aside his axe, and in order to give Mr. 
Hadow greater security, was absolutely taking hold of his legs, and 
putting his feet, one by one, into their proper positions.! As far as 
I know, no one was actually descending. I cannot speak with 
certainty, because the two leading men were partially hidden from 
my sight by an intervening mass of rock, but it is my belief, from 

* Described upon pp. 388-9. 

f Not at all an unusual proceeding, even between born mountaineers. I wish 
to convey the impression that Croz was using all pains, rather than to indicate 
extreme inability on the part of Mr. Hadow. The insertion of the word ' absolutely ' 
makes the passage, perhaps, rather ambiguous. I retain it now, in order to offer the 
above explanation. 


the movements of their shoulders, that Croz, having done as I have 
said, was in the act of turning round to go down a step or two him- 
self; at this moment Mr. Hadow slipped, fell against him, and 
knocked him over. I heard one startled exclamation from Croz, 
then saw him and Mr. Hadow flying downwards ; in another 
moment Hudson was dragged from his steps, and Lord F. Douglas 
immediately after him.* All this was the work of a moment. 
Immediately we heard Croz's exclamation, old Peter and I planted 
ourselves as firmly as the rocks would permit :*f* the rope was taut 
between us, and the jerk came on us both as on one man. We 
held ; but the rope broke midway between Taugwalder and Lord 
Francis Douglas. For a few seconds we saw our unfortunate com- 
panions sliding downwards on their backs, and spreading out their 

* At the moment of the accident, Croz, Hadow, and Hudson, were all close together. 
Between Hudson and Lord F. Douglas the rope was all but taut, and the same 
between all the others who were above. Croz was standing by the side of a rock 
which afforded good hold, and if he had been aware, or had suspected, that anything 
was about to occur, he might and would have gripped it, and would have prevented 
any mischief. He was taken totally by surprise. Mr. Hadow slipped off' his feet 
on to his back, his feet struck Croz in the small of the back, and knocked him right 
over, head first. Croz's axe was out of his reach, and without it he managed to get 
his head uppermost before he disappeared from our sight. If it had been in his 
hand I have no doubt that he would have stopped himself and Mr. Hadow. 

Mr. Hadow, at the moment of the slip, was not occupying a bad position. He 
could have moved either up or down, and could touch with his hand the rock of 
which I have spoken. Hudson was not so well placed, but he had liberty of motion. 
The rope was not taut from him to Hadow, and the two men fell ten or twelve feet 
before the jerk came upon him. Lord F. Douglas was not favourably placed, and 
could neither move up nor down. Old Peter was firmly planted, and stood just 
beneath a large rock which he hugged with both arms. I enter into these details to 
make it more apparent that the position occupied by the party at the moment of the 
accident was not by any means excessively trying. We were compelled to pass over 
the exact spot where the slip occurred, and we found — even with shaken nerves — 
that it was not a difficult place to pass. I have described the slope generally as diffi- 
cult, and it is so undoubtedly to most persons ; but it must be distinctly understood 
that Mr. Hadow slipped at an easy part. 

f Or, more correctly, we held on as tightly as possible. There was no time to 
change our position. 




hands, endeavouring to save themselves. They passed from our 
sight uninjured, disappeared one by one, and fell from precipice to 
precipice on to the Matterhorngletscher below, a distance of nearly 
4000 feet in height. From the moment the rope broke it was impos- 
sible to help them. 

So perished our comrades ! For the space of half-an-hour we 
remained on the spot without moving a single step. The two 
men, paralysed by terror, cried like infants, and trembled in such 
a manner as to threaten us with the fate of the others. Old Peter 
rent the air with exclamations of " Chamounix ! Oh, what will 
Chamounix say ? " He meant, Who would believe that Croz 
could fall ? The young man did nothing but scream or sob, " We 

are lost ! we are lost ! " Fixed be- 
tween the two, I could neither 
move up nor down. I begged 
young Peter to descend, but he 
dared not. Unless he did, we could 
not advance. Old Peter became 
alive to the clanger, and swelled 
the cry, " W^e are lost ! we are 
lost ! " The father's fear was 
natural — he trembled for his son ; 
the young man's fear was cow- 
ardly — he thought of self alone. 
At last old Peter summoned up 
courage, and changed his position 
to a rock to which he could fix 
the rope ; the young man then de- 
scended, and we all stood together. 
Immediately we did so, I asked for the rope which had given way, 
and found, to my surprise — indeed, to my horror — that it was the 
weakest of the three ropes. It was not brought, and should not 
have been employed, for the purpose for which it was used. It 
was old rope, and, compared with the others, was feeble. It was 


chap. xxn. ASTONISHING FOG-BOW. 399 

intended as a reserve, in case we had to leave much rope behind, 
attached to rocks. I saw at once that a serious question was 
involved, and made him give me the end. It had broken in mid- 
air, and it did not appear to have sustained previous injury. 

For more than two hours afterwards I thought almost every 
moment that the next would be my last ; for the Taugwalders, 
utterly unnerved, were not only incapable of giving assistance, but 
were in such a state that a slip might have been expected from 
them at any moment. After a time, we were able to do that which 
should have been done at first, and fixed rope to firm rocks, in 
addition to being tied together. These ropes were cut from time 
to time, and were left behind.* Even with their assurance the 
men were afraid to proceed, and several times old Peter turned with 
ashy face and faltering limbs, and said, with terrible emphasis, "/ 
cannot ! " 

About 6 p.m. we arrived at the snow upon the ridge descending 
towards Zermatt, and all peril was over. We frequently looked, 
but in vain, for traces of our unfortunate companions ; we bent 
over the ridge and cried to them, but no sound returned. Con- 
vinced at last that they were neither within sight nor hearing, we 
ceased from our useless efforts ; and, too cast down for speech, 
silently gathered up our things, and the little effects of those who 
were lost, preparatory to continuing the descent. When, lo ! a 
mighty arch appeared, rising above the Lyskamm, high into the 
sky. Pale, colourless, and noiseless, but perfectly sharp and de- 
fined, except where it was lost in the clouds, this unearthly appari- 
tion seemed like a vision from another world ; and, almost appalled, 
we watched with amazement the gradual development of two vast 
crosses, one on either side. If the Taugwalders had not been the 
first to perceive it, I should have doubted my senses. They 
thought it had some connection with the accident, and I, after a 
while, that it might bear some relation to ourselves. But our 

* These ends, I believe, are still attached to the rocks, and mark our line of 
ascent and descent. 


movements had no effect upon it. The spectral forms remained 
motionless. It was a fearful and wonderful sight ; unique in my 
experience, and impressive beyond description, coming at such a 

I was ready to leave, and waiting for the others. They had 
recovered their appetites and the use of their tongues. They 
spoke in patois, which I did not understand. At length the son 

* See Frontispiece. I paid very little attention to this remarkable phenomenon, 
and was glad when it disappeared, as it distracted our attention. Under ordinary 
circumstances I should have felt vexed afterwards at not having observed with 
greater precision an occurrence so rare and so wonderful. I can add very little about 
it to that which is said above. The sun was directly at our backs ; that is to say, 
the fog-bow was opposite to the sun. The time was 6.30 p.m. The forms were at 
once tender and sharp ; neutral in tone ; were developed gradually, and disappeared 
suddenly. The mists were light (that is, not dense), and were dissipated in the 
course of the evening. 

It has been suggested that the crosses are incorrectly figured in the Frontis- 
piece, and that they were probably formed by the 
intersection of other circles or ellipses, as shown in 
the annexed diagram. I think this suggestion is 
very likely correct ; but I have preferred to follow 
my original memorandum. 

In Parry's Narrative of an Attempt to reach the 
North Pole, 4to, 1828, there is, at pp. 99-100, an 
account of the occurrence of a phenomenon analo- 
gous to the above-mentioned one. " At half-past 
live r.M. we witnessed a very beautiful natural 
phenomenon. A broad white fog-bow first appeared 
opposite to the sun, as was very commonly the case," etc. I follow Parry in using 

the term fog-bow. 

It may be observed that, upon the descent of the Italian guides (whose expedi- 
tion is noticed upon p. 393, and again in the Appendix), upon July 17th, 1865, the 
phenomenon commonly termed the Brocken was observed. The following is the 
account given by the Abbe Ame Gorret in the Fcuille oVAoste, October 31, 1865 : — 
" Nous etions sur l'epaule (the ' shoulder') quand nous remarquames un phenomene 
qui nous fit plaisir ; le image etait tres-dense du cote de Yaltornanche, c'etait serein 
en Suisse • nous nous vimes au milieu d'un cercle aux couleurs de l'arc-en-ciel ; ce 
mirage nous formait a tons une couronne au milieu de laquelle nous voyions notre 
ombre." This occurred at about 6.30 to 7 r.M., and the Italians in mention were 
at about the same height as ourselves— namely, 14,000 feet. 




said in French, " Monsieur." " Yes." "We are poor men ; we have 
lost our Herr ; we shall not get paid; we can ill afford this."* 
" Stop !" I said, interrupting him, "that is nonsense ; I shall pay 
you, of course, just as if your Herr were here." They talked 
together in their patois for a short time, and then the son spoke 
again. " We don't wish you to pay us. We wish you to write in 
the hotel-book at Zermatt, and to your journals, that we have not 
been paid." " What nonsense are you talking ? I don't understand 
you. What do you mean?" He proceeded — "Why, next year 
there will be many travellers at Zermatt, and we shall get more 
voyageurs." t 

Who would answer such a proposition ? I made them no reply 
in words,t hut they knew very well the indignation that I felt. 
They filled the cup of bitterness to overflowing, and I tore down 
the cliff, madly and recklessly, in a way that caused them, more 
than once, to inquire if I wished to kill them. Night fell ; and 
for an hour the descent was continued in 
the darkness. At half-past 9 a resting- 
place was found, and upon a wretched 
slab, barely large enough to hold the three, 
we passed six miserable hours. At day- 
break the descent was resumed, and from 
the Hornli ridge we ran down to the 
chalets of Buhl, and on to Zermatt. 
Seiler met me at his door, and followed 
in silence to my room. "What is the 
matter?" "The Taugwalders and I have 
returned." He did not need more, and 
burst into tears ; but lost no time in useless lamentations, and set 
to work to arouse the village. Ere long a score of men had started 

* Tliey had been travelling with, and had been engaged by, Lord F. Douglas, 
and so considered him their employer, and responsible to them. 

t Transcribed from the original memorandum. 

% Nor did I speak to them afterwards, unless it was absolutely necessary, so long 
as we were together. 

3 F 



to ascend the Holilicht heights, above Kalbermatt and Z'Mutt, 
which commanded the plateau of the Matterhorngletscher. They 
returned after six hours, and reported that they had seen the bodies 
lying motionless on the snow. This was on Saturday ; and they 
proposed that we should leave on Sunday evening, so as to arrive 
upon the plateau at daybreak on Monday. Unwilling to lose the 
slightest chance, the Eev. J. M/Cormick and I resolved to start on 
Sunday morning. The Zermatt men, threatened with excommuni- 
cation by their priests if they failed to attend the early mass, were 
unable to accompany us. To several of them, at least, this was a 
severe trial, and Peter Perm declared with tears that nothing else 
would have prevented him from joining in the search for his old 
comrades. Englishmen came to our aid. The Eev. J. Eobertson 
and Mr. J. Phillpotts offered themselves, and their guide Franz 
Andermatten ;* another Englishman lent us Joseph Marie and 
Alexandre Lochmatter. Frederic Payot, and Jean Tairraz, of 
Chamounix, also volunteered. 

We started at 2 a.m. on Sunday the 16th, and followed the 
route that we had taken on the previous Thursday as far as the 
Hornli. From thence we went down to the right of the ridge, - )" 
and mounted through the sfracs of the Matterhorngletscher. By 
8.30 we had got to the plateau at the top of the glacier, and 
within sight of the corner in which we knew my companions must 
be. J As we saw one weather-beaten man after another raise the 
telescope, turn deadly pale, and pass it on without a word to the 
next, we knew that all hope was gone. We approached. They 
had fallen below as they had fallen above — Croz a little in advance, 
Hadow near him, and Hudson some distance behind ; but of Lord 
F. Douglas we could see nothing.§ We left them where they fell ; 

* A portrait of Franz Andermatten is given in the engraving facing p. 262. 

t To the point marked Z on the map. $ Marked with a cross on the map. 

§ A pair of gloves, a belt, and boot that had belonged to him were found. This, 
somehow, became publicly known, and gave rise to wild notions, which would not 
have been entertained had it been also known that the wliolc of the boots of those 
who had fallen were off, and were lying upon the snow near the bodies. 

CHAP. xxn. 



buried in snow at the base of the grandest cliff of the most 
majestic mountain of the Alps. 

All those who had fallen had been tied with the Manilla, 
or with the second and 
equally strong rope, and, 
consequently, there had 
been only one link — that 
between old Peter and 
Lord F. Douglas — where 
the weaker rope had been 
used. This had a very 
ugly look for Taugwalder, 
for it was not possible to 
suppose that the others 
would have sanctioned 
the employment of a rope 
so greatly inferior in 
strength when there were 
more than 250 feet of 
.the better qualities still 
remaining out of use.* 
For the sake of the old 
guide (who bore a good 
reputation), and upon all 
other accounts, it was de- 
sirable that this matter should be cleared up ; and after my 
examination before the court of inquiry which was instituted by the 
Government was over, I handed in a number of questions which 
were framed so as to afford old Peter an opportunity of exculpating 
himself from the grave suspicions which at once fell upon him. 


* I was one hundred feet or more from the others whilst they were being tied up, 
and am unable to throw any light on the matter. Croz and old Peter no doubt tied 
up the others. 

f The three ropes have been reduced by photography to the same scale. 


The questions, I was told, were put and answered ; but the answers, 
although promised, have never reached me.* 

Meanwhile, the administration sent strict injunctions to recover 
the bodies, and upon the 19th of July, twenty-one men of Zermatt 
accomplished that sad and dangerous task."|" Of the body of Lord 
Francis Douglas they, too, saw nothing ; it is probably still ar- 
rested on the rocks above.! The remains of Hudson and Hadow 

* This is not the only occasion upon which M. Clemenz (who presided over the 
inquiry) has failed to give up answers that he has promised. It is greatly to be 
regretted that he does not feel that the suppression of the truth is equally against the 
interests of travellers and of the guides. If the men are untrustworthy, the public 
should be warned of the fact ; but if they are blameless, why allow them to remain 
under unmerited suspicion ? 

Old Peter Taugwalder is a man who is labouring under an unjust accusation. 
Notwithstanding repeated denials, even his comrades and neighbours at Zermatt 
persist in asserting or insinuating that he cut the rope which led from him to Lord 
F. Douglas. In regard to this infamous charge, I say that he could not do so at the 
moment of the slip, and that the end of the rope in my possession shows that he did 
not do so beforehand. There remains, however, the suspicious fact that the rope 
which broke was the thinnest and weakest one that we had. It is suspicious, because 
it is unlikely that any of the four men in front would have selected an old and weak 
ropewhen there was abundance of new, and much stronger, rope to spare ; and, on 
the other hand, because if Taugwalder thought that an accident was likely to happen, 
it was to his interest to have the weaker rope where it was placed. 

I should rejoice to learn that his answers to the questions which were put to him 
were satisfactory. Not only was his act at the critical moment wonderful as a feat 
of strength, but it was admirable in its performance at the right time. I am told 
that he is now nearly incapable for work — not absolutely mad, but with intellect 
gone and almost crazy ; which is not to be wondered at, whether we regard him as a 
man who contemplated a scoundrelly meanness, or as an injured man suffering under 
an unjust accusation. 

In respect to young Peter, it is not possible to speak in the same manner. The 
odious idea that he propounded (which I believe emanated from Mm) he has 
endeavoured to trade upon, in spite of the fact that his father was paid (for both) in 
the presence of witnesses. Whatever may be his abilities as a guide, he is not one 
to whom I would ever trust my life, or afford any countenance. 

t They followed the route laid down upon the map, and on their descent were in 
great peril from the fall of a serac. The character of the work they undertook may 
be gathered from a reference to p. 155. 

X This, or a subsequent party, discovered a sleeve. No other traces have been found. 




were interred upon the north side of the Zermatt Church, in 
the presence of a reverent crowd of sympathising friends. The 
body of Michel Croz lies upon 
the other side, under a simpler 
tomb ; whose inscription bears 
honourable testimony to his recti- 
tude, to his courage, and to his 

So the traditional inaccessi- 
bility of the Matterhorn was van- 
quished, and was replaced by 
legends of a more real character. 
Others will essay to scale its 
proud cliffs, but to none will it 
be the mountain that it was to 
its early explorers. Others may 
tread its summit-snows, but none 
will ever know the feelings of 
those who first gazed upon its 
marvellous panorama ; and none, 
I trust, will ever be compelled to 
tell of joy turned into grief, and 
of laughter into mourning. It 
proved to be a stubborn foe ; it 
resisted long, and gave many a 

hard blow ; it was defeated at last with an ease that none could 
have anticipated, but, like a relentless enemy — conquered but not 



-it took terrible vengeance. 

The time may come when 

* At the instance of Mr. Alfred Wills, a subscription list was opened for the 
benefit of the sisters of Michel Croz, who had been partly dependent upon his earn- 
ings. In a short time more than £280 were raised. This was considered sufficient, 
and the list was closed. The proceeds were invested in French Rentes (by Mr. 
William Mathews), at the recommendation of M. Dupui, at that time Maire of 


the Matterhorn shall have passed away, and nothing, save a heap 
of shapeless fragments, will mark the spot where the great moun- 
tain stood ; for, atom by atom, inch by inch, and yard by yard, it 
yields to forces which nothing can withstand. That time is far 
distant ; and, ages hence, generations unborn will gaze upon its 
awful precipices, and wonder at its unique form. However exalted 
may be their ideas, and however exaggerated their expectations, 
none will come to return disappointed ! 

The play is over, and the curtain is about to fall. Before we 
part, a word upon the graver teachings of the mountains. See 
yonder height ! 'Tis far away — unbidden comes the word " Im- 
possible ! " " Not so," says the mountaineer. " The way is long, 
I know ; it's difficult — it may be — dangerous. It's possible, I'm 
sure ; I'll seek the way ; take counsel of my brother mountaineers, 
and find how they have gained similar heights, and learned to avoid 
the dangers." He starts (all slumbering down below) ; the path is 
slippery — may be laborious, too. Caution and perseverance gain 
the day — the height is reached ! and those beneath cry, " Incre- 
dible ; 'tis superhuman ! " 

We who go mountain-scrambling have constantly set before us 
the superiority of fixed purpose or perseverance to brute force. We 
know that each height, each step, must be gained by patient, labo- 
rious toil, and that wishing cannot take the place of working ; we 
know the benefits of mutual aid ; that many a difficulty must be 
encountered, and many an obstacle must be grappled with or 
turned, but we know that where there's a will there's a way : and 
we come back to our daily occupations better fitted to fight the 
battle of life, and to overcome the impediments which obstruct our 
paths, strengthened and cheered by the recollection of past labours, 
and by the memories of victories gained in other fields. 

I have not made myself an advocate or an apologist for moun- 
taineering, nor do I now intend to usurp the functions of a moralist ; 
but my task would have been ill performed if it had been concluded 

chap. xxii. FINALE. 407 

without one reference to the more serious lessons of the moun- 
taineer. We glory in the physical regeneration which is the pro- 
duct of our exertions ; we exult over the grandeur of the scenes 
that are brought before our eyes, the splendours of sunrise and sun- 
set, and the beauties of hill, dale, lake, wood, and waterfall ; but 
we value more highly the development of manliness, and the 
evolution, under combat with difficulties, of those noble qualities of 
human nature — courage, patience, endurance, and fortitude. 

Some hold these virtues in less estimation, and assign base and 
contemptible motives to those who indulge in our innocent sport. 

" Be tliou chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny." 

Others, again, who are not detractors, find mountaineering, as 
a sport, to be wholly unintelligible. It is not greatly to be 
wondered at — we are not all constituted alike. Mountaineering is 
a pursuit essentially adapted to the young or vigorous, and not to 
the old or feeble. To the latter, toil may be no pleasure ; and it is 
often said by such persons, " This man is making a toil of pleasure." 
Let the motto on the title-page be an answer, if an answer be 
required. Toil he must who goes mountaineering ; but out of the 
toil comes strength (not merely muscular energy — more than that), 
an awakening of all the faculties ; and from the strength arises 
pleasure. Then, again, it is often asked, in tones which seem to 
imply that the answer must, at least, be doubtful, " But does it 
repay you?" Well, we cannot estimate our enjoyment as you 
measure your wine, or weigh your lead, — it is real, nevertheless. 
If I could blot out every reminiscence, or erase every memory, 
still I should say that my scrambles amongst the Alps have repaid 
me, for they have given me two of the best things a man can 
possess — health and friends. 

The recollections of past pleasures cannot be effaced. Even 
now as I write they crowd up before me. First comes an endless 
series of pictures, magnificent in form, effect, and colour. I see the 
great peaks, with clouded tops, seeming to mount up for ever and 




ever ; I hear the music of the distant herds, the peasant's jodel, 
and the solemn church-bells ; and I scent the fragrant breath of 
the pines : and after these have passed away, another train of 
thoughts succeeds — of those who have been upright, brave, and 
true ; of kind hearts and bold deeds ; and of courtesies received at 
stranger hands, trifles in themselves, but expressive of that good 
will towards men which is the essence of charity. 

Still, the last, sad memory hovers round, and sometimes drifts 
across like floating mist, cutting off sunshine, and chilling the 
remembrance of happier times. There have been joys too great to 
be described in words, and there have been griefs upon which I 
have not dared to dwell ; and with these in mind I say, Climb if 
you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought 
without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may- destroy 
the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste ; look well to 
each step ; and from the beginning think what may be the end. 


3 G 

appendix. THE MONT GENIB TUNNEL. 411 

A. Progress of the Great Tunnel through the Alps. 

The advanced galleries of the Mont Cenis tunnel were successfully joined 
upon Dec. 26, 1870.* Their progress in 1870 was unusually rapid. In 
the first eleven months, 1511 metres were driven ; whereas in the whole 
of 1869 they progressed only 1431 metres. At the end of 1870 about 
1000 metres of the tunnel still remained to be lined with masonry, and it 
was anticipated that it could be quite finished, ready for use, by July or 
August 1871. The railway from Susa to Bardonneche will also be completed 
by that time, but the line that is to connect Modaue with St. Michel will not 
be ready until about the end of the year, so that the opening of the tunnel 
will probably be delayed until this latter period. 

Signor F. Giordano (inspector of Italian mines) made some observations 
upon the natural temperature of the rock in the tunnel, at the end of 1870 ; 
and I learn that the highest reading he obtained (near the centre) was 85 0, 1 
Faht. The temperature of the air at the same part was slightly above 86°. 
About 85° will doubtless be the temperature of the middle of the tunnel for 
a considerable time, although it is sure to cool gradually. Travellers who go 
through it in the winter time will, therefore, pass from an almost arctic 
climate to a sub-tropical one in a distance of three and a half miles.']' 

The following paragraph (appended as a note to pp. 78-9) explains itself: — 
A Coal-pit on Fire. — On Friday morning, Jan. 13, it was discovered 
that one of the coal-pits at West Ardsley, near Leeds, belonging to the West 
Yorkshire Iron and Coal Company, had taken fire, and the most serious con- 
sequences were imminent. The men and boys, amounting to several hundreds, 
were drawn out of the pit with the utmost rapidity, and the usual measures 
taken for extinguishing such fires. This pit is fortunately worked by machine 
coal-cutters, driven by compressed air. The pipes which convey the com- 
pressed air into the workings were promptly connected with the water reser- 
voir at the surface, and the water transmitted through the pipes to the place 
where the fire was raging. Through the great pressure of the water, the shaft 
being 170 yards deep, there was a powerful stream steadily playing upon the 
burning matter, and in less than an hour the fire was subdued and all danger 
overcome. It seems that at the spot where the fire took place there is a 
' throw,' or \ fault,' and some gas had accumulated, which, on the firing of 
a shot, was ignited, and thus set fire to the coal and waste. The fortunate 
circumstance that the pit is worked by air-machinery has saved the proprietors 
from the loss of many thousands of pounds, which otherwise would have been 
inevitable, and a very large population would have been thrown out of employ- 
ment during this very inclement season. — Standard, Jan. 17, 1871. 

* According to a letter in the Standard, Jan. 6, 1871, there was a mistake in the 
determination of the length of the tunnel to the extent of sixteen metres. 

*f" The temperature of the interior may, possibly, be reduced by artificial ventilation- 


B. The Death of Bennen.* 

On February 28, 1864, Mr. P. C. Gosset and Mr. B started from the 

village of Ardon (about mid-way between Sion and Martigny), to make the 
ascent of the Haut-de-Cry (9688 feet), with the guides J. J. Nance, F. Rebot, 
A. Bevard, and J. J. Bennen. They arrived within a few hundred feet of 
the summit before mid-day, and determined to complete the ascent by follow- 
ing the crest of a ridge leading towards the east. Before this could be done 
it was necessary to cross some steep snow ; and, while passing this, an ava- 
lanche was unfortunately started. Bennen and Mr. B perished ; the 

others happily escaped. The following narrative, from the pen of Mr. Gosset, 
illustrates, in a very impressive manner, the danger of traversing new-fallen 
snow at considerable inclinations : — 

" We had to go up a steep snow-field, about 800 feet high, as well 
as I remember. It was about 150 feet broad at the top, and 400 or 
500 at the bottom. It was a sort of couloir on a large scale. During 
the ascent we sank about one foot deep at every step. Bennen did 
not seem to like the look of the snow very much. He asked the local 
guides whether avalanches ever came down this couloir, to which they 
answered that our position was perfectly safe. We had mounted on the 
northern side of the couloir, and having arrived at 150 feet from the top, we 
began crossing it on a horizontal curve, so as to gain the E. arete. The in- 
flexion or dip of the couloir was slight, not above 25 feet, the inclination 
near 35°. We were walking in the following order : — Bevard, Nance, Ben- 
nen, myself, B., and Rebot. Having crossed over about three-quarters of the 
breadth of the couloir, the two leading men suddenly sank considerably above 
their waists. Bennen tightened the rope. The snow was too deep to think 
of getting out of the hole they had made, so they advanced one or two 
steps, dividing the snow with their bodies. Bennen turned round and told 
us he was afraid of starting an avalanche ; we asked whether it would not be 
better to return and cross the couloir higher up. To this the three Ardon 
men opposed themselves ; they mistook the proposed precaution for fear, and 
the two leading men continued their work. After three or four steps gained 
in the aforesaid manner, the snow became hard again. Bennen had not 
moved — he was evidently undecided what he should do ; as soon, however, 
as he saw hard snow again, he advanced and crossed parallel to, but above, 
the furrow the Ardon men had made. Strange to say, the snow supported 
him. While he was passing I observed that the leader, Bevard, had ten or 
twelve feet of rope coiled round his shoulder. I of course at once told him 
to uncoil it and get on the arete, from which he was not more than fifteen 
feet distant. Bennen then told me to follow. I tried his steps, but sank up 
to my waist in the very first. So I went through the furrows, holding my 
elbows close to my body, so as not to touch the sides. This furrow was about 
twelve feet long, and as the snow was good on the other side, we had all come 
to the false conclusion that the snow was accidentally softer there than else- 

* See p. 86. 

appendix. THE DEATH OF BENE EN. 413 

where. Bennen advanced ; he had made but a few steps when we heard a 
deep, cutting sound. The snow-field split in two about fourteen or fifteen 
feet above us. The cleft was at first quite narrow, not more than an inch 
broad. An awful silence ensued ; it lasted but a few seconds, and then it 
was broken by Bennen's voice, ' We are all lost.' His words were slow and 
solemn, and those who knew him felt what they really meant when spoken 
by such a man as Bennen. They were his last words. I drove my alpen- 
stock into the snow, and brought the weight of my body to bear on it. I 
then waited. It "was an awful moment of suspense. I turned my head to- 
wards Bennen to see whether he had done the same thing. To my astonish- 
ment I saw him turn round, face the valley, and stretch out both arms. 
The snow on which we stood began to move slowly, and I felt the utter use- 
lessness of any alpenstock. I soon sank up to my shoulders, and began de- 
scending backwards. From this moment I saw nothing of what had hap- 
pened to the rest of the party. With a good deal of trouble I succeeded in 
turning round. The speed of the avalanche increased rapidly, and before 
long I was covered up with snow. I was suffocating when I suddenly came 
to the surface again. I was on a wave of the avalanche, and saw it before me 
as I was carried down. It was the most awful sight I ever saw. The head 
of the avalanche was already at the spot where we had made our last halt. 
The head alone was preceded by a thick cloud of snow-dust ; the rest of the 
avalanche was clear. Around me I heard the horrid hissing of the snow, and 
far before me the thundering of the foremost part of the avalanche. To pre- 
vent myself sinking again, I made use of my arms much in the same way as 
when swimming in a standing position. At last I noticed that I was moving 
slower ; then I saw the pieces of snow in front of me stop at some yards' 
distance ; then the snow straight before me stopped, and I heard on a large 
scale the same creaking sound that is produced when a heavy cart passes over 
frozen snow in winter. I felt that I also had stopped, and instantly threw up 
both arms to protect my head in case I should again be covered up. I had 
stopped, but the snow behind me was still in motion ; its pressure on my 
body was so strong, that I thought I should be crushed to death. This 
tremendous pressure lasted but a short time ; I was covered up by snow 
coining from behind me. My first impulse was to try and uncover my head 
— but this I could not do, the avalanche had frozen by pressure the moment 
it stopped, and I was frozen in. Whilst trying vainly to move my arms, I 
suddenly became aware that the hands as far as the wrist had the faculty of 
motion. The conclusion was easy, they must be above the snow. I set to 
work as well as I could ; it was time, for I could not have held out much 
longer. At last I saw a faint glimmer of light. The crust above my head 
was getting thinner, but I could not reach it any more with my hands ; the 
idea struck me that I might pierce it with my breath. After several efforts 
I succeeded in doing so, and felt suddenly a rush of air towards my mouth. 
I saw the sky again through a little round hole. A dead silence reigned 
around me ; I was so surprised to be still alive, and so persuaded at the first 
moment that none of my fellow-sufferers had survived, that I did not even 
think of shouting for them. I then made vain efforts to extricate my arms, 


but found it impossible ; the most I could do was to join the ends of my 
fingers, but they could not reach the snow any longer. After a few minutes 
I heard a man shouting ; what a relief it was to know that I was not the sole 
survivor ! to know that perhaps he was not frozen in and could come to my 
assistance ! I answered ; the voice approached, but seemed uncertain where 
to go, and yet it was now quite near. A sudden exclamation of surprise ! 
Rebot had seen my hands. He cleared my head in an instant, and was about 
to try and cut me out completely, when I saw a foot above the snow, and so 
near to me that I could touch it with my arms, although they were not quite 
free yet. I at once tried to move the foot ; it was my poor friend's. A 
pang of agony shot through me as I saw that the foot did not move. Poor 
B. had lost sensation, and was perhaps already dead. Eebot did his best : 
after some time he wished me to help him, so he freed my arms a little more 
so that I could make use of them. I could do but little, for Rebot had torn 
the axe from my shoulder as soon as he had cleared my head (I generally 
carry an axe separate from my alpenstock — the blade tied to the belt, and the 
handle attached to the left shoulder). Before coming to me Rebot had helped 
Nance out of the snow ; he was lying nearly horizontally, and was not much 
covered over. Nance found Bevard, who was upright in the snow, but 
covered up to the head. After about twenty minutes the two last-named 
guides came up. I was at length taken out ; the snow had to be cut with the 
axe down to my feet before I could be pulled out. A few minutes after one 
o'clock p.m. we came to my poor friend's face. - ... I wished the body to 
be taken out completely, but nothing could induce the three guides to work 
any longer, from the moment they saw that it was too late to save him. I 
acknowledge that they were nearly as incapable of doing anything as I was. 
When I was taken out of the snow the cord had to be cut. We tried the end 
going towards Bennen, but could not move it ; it went nearly straight down, 
and showed us that there was the grave of the bravest guide the Valais ever 
had, and ever will have. The cold had done its work on us ; we could stand 
it no longer, and began the descent." 

C. Struck by Lightning upon the Matterhorn* 

[Mr. R. B. Heathcote, of Chingford, Essex, whilst attempting to ascend the 
Matterhorn by the southern route, was unfortunately used as a lightning-con- 
ductor, when he was within 500 feet of the summit of the mountain. It may 
be observed that the Matterhorn (like all isolated Alpine rock summits) is 
frequently struck by lightning. Signor Giordano has pointed out elsewhere 
that he found numerous traces of electric discharges upon the top of the 
mountain.] t 

"On July 30, 1869, in company with Peter Perm, Peter Taugwalder 
junior, and Jos. Maquignaz, I commenced the ascent. The atmosphere was 
clear, and the wind southerly. When very near to the summit an extremely 
loud thunder-clap was heard, and we thought it prudent to descend. We 
commenced the descent in the following order : — Taugwalder first, myself next, 
* See ]». 175. f Malte-Brun's Annates des Voyages, April 1869. 

appendix. THE MATTERHORN. 415 

then Perm, and Maquignaz last. On approaching the Col cle Felicite* I re- 
ceived a sharp, stinging blow on the leg, and thought, at first, that a stone had 
been dislodged ; but a loud thunder-clap at once told me what it was. Perm 
also said that he had been hit on the leg. In a few moments I received a hit 
on the right arm, which seemed to run along it, and resembled a shock from 
a galvanic battery. At the same time all the men gave a startled shriek, and 
exclaimed that they were hit by lightning. The storm continued near us for 
some little time, and then gradually died away. On arriving at the cdbane 
I found that Perm had a long sore on his arm ; next morning his leg was 
much swollen and very weak. We descended to Breil on the following day, 
and crossed to Zermatt. The same day my hand began to swell, and it 
continued very weak for about a week. Maquignaz's neck was much swollen 
on each side ; the lightning hitting him (according to his account) on the back, 
and upon each side of the neck. Taugwalder's leg was also slightly swollen. 
The thunder was tremendous — louder than I have ever heard it before. There 
was no wind, nor rain, and everything was in a mist." 

D. Note to Chapter VIII. p. 179. 

It was stated in the commencement of this chapter that -the Pointe des 
Ecrins was the highest mountain in France. I have learned, since that para- 
graph was written, that Captain Mieulet has determined that the height of the 
Aiguille Verte is 13,540 feet ; that mountain is consequently 78 feet higher 
than the Pointe des Ecrins, and is the highest in France. 

E. Subsequent History of the Matterhorn. f 

The Val Tournanche natives who started to facilitate the way up the south- 
west ridge of the Matterhorn for MM. Giordano and Sella, pitched their 
tent upon the third platform, at the foot of the Great Tower (12,992 
feet), and enjoyed several days of bad weather under its shelter. On the 
first fine day (13th of July) they began their work, and about midday on the 
1 4th got on to the ' shoulder,' and arrived at the base of the final peak (the 
point where Bennen stopped on July 28, 1862). The counsels of the party 
were then divided. Two — Jean-Antoine Carrel and Joseph Maquignaz — 
wished to go on ; the others were not eager about it. A discussion took 
place, and the result was they all commenced to descend, and whilst upon the 
' cravate ' (13,524) they heard our cries from the summit. $ Upon the 15th 
they went down to Breil and reported their ill-success to M. Giordano (see p. 
392). That gentleman was naturally much disappointed, and pressed the 
men to set out again. § Said he, " Until now I have striven for the honour 

* A place on the final peak, about half-way between the ' Shoulder ' and the summit. 

t We resume here the account of the proceedings of the Italians who started from 
Breil on the 11th of July 1865. See p. 380. 

X The foregoing particulars were related to me by J. -A. Carrel. 

§ The following details are taken from the account of the Abbe Ann'- Grorret (pub- 
lished in the Feuille d'Aoste, Oct. 1865), who was at Breil when the men returned. 


of making the first ascent, — fate lias decided against me, — I am beaten. 
Patience ! Now, if I make further sacrifices it will be on your account, for 
your honour, and for your interests. Will you start again to settle the 
question, or, at least, to let there be no more uncertainty ?" The majority of 
the men (in fact the whole of them with the exception of Jean-Antoine) 
refused point-blank to have anything more to do with the mountain. Carrel, 
however, stepped forward, saying, "As for me, I have not given it up ; if 
you (turning to the Abbe Gorret) or the others will come, I will start again 
immediateby." "Not I!" said one. "No more for me," cried a second. 
" If you would give me a thousand francs I would not go back," said a third. 
The Abbe Gorret alone volunteered. This plucky priest was concerned in 
the very first attempts upon the mountain,* and is an enthusiastic moun- 
taineer. Carrel and the Abbe would have set out by themselves had not 
J. B. Bich and J.-A. Meynet (two men in the employ of Favre the innkeeper) 
come forward at the last moment. M. Giordano also wished to accompany 
them, but the men knew the nature of the work they had to undertake, and 
positively declined to be accompanied by an amateur. 

These four men left Breil at 6.30 a.m. on July 16, at 1 P.M. arrived at 
the third tent-platform, and there passed the night. At daybreak on the 
17th they continued the ascent by the route which had been taken before ; 
passed successively the Great Tower, the i crete du coq,' the ' cravate,' and 
the ' shoulder,' t and at 10 a.m. gained the point at the foot of the final 
peak from which the explorers had turned back on the 1 4th. % They had 
then about 800 feet to accomplish, and, says the Abbe, " nous allions entrer 
en pays inconnu, aucun n'etant jamais alle aussi loin." 

The passage of the cleft which stopped Bennen was accomplished, and 
then the party proceeded directly towards the summit, over rocks which for 
some distance were not particularly difficult. The steep cliffs down which 
we had hurled stones (on the 14th) then stopped their way, and Carrel led 
round to the left or Z'Mutt side. The work at this part was of the very 
greatest difficulty, and stones and icicles which fell rendered the position of 
the party very precarious ; § so much so that they preferred to turn up 
directly towards the summit, and climb by rocks that the Abbe termed 
" almost perpendicular." He added, " This part occupied the most time, and 
gave us the greatest trouble." At length they arrived at a fault in the rocks 
which formed a roughly horizontal gallery. They crept along this in the 
direction of a ridge that descended towards the north-west, or thereabouts, 

* See Appendix F, attempt No. 1. 

+ These terms, as well as the others, Great Staircase, Col du Lion, Tete du Lion, 
Chimney, and so forth, were applied by Carrel and myself to the various points^ in con- 
sequence of real or supposed resemblances in the rocks to other things. A few of the 
terms originated with the author, but they are chiefly due to the inventive genius of 
J.-A. Carrel. 

X This point is marked by the red letter E upon the lower of the two outlines 
facing p. 83. 

§ I have seen icicles more than a hundred feet long hanging from the rocks near the 
summit of the Matterhom. 


and when close to the ridge, found that they could not climb on to it ; but 
they perceived that, by descending a gully with perpendicular sides, they 
could reach the ridge at a lower point. The bold Abbe was the heaviest and 
the strongest of the four, and he was sacrificed for the success of the expedi- 
tion. He and Meynet remained behind, and lowered the others, one by one, 
into the gully. Carrel and Bich clambered up the other side, attained the 
ridge descending towards the north-west, shortly afterwards gained an " easy 
route, * they galloped," and in a few minutes reached the southern end of 
the summit-ridge. 

The time of their arrival does not appear to have been noticed. It was 
late in the day, I believe about 3 p.m. Carrel and his comrade ouly waited 
long enough to plant a flag by the side of the cairn that we had built three 
days previously, then descended at once, rejoined the others, and all four 
hurried down as fast as possible to the tent. They were so pressed for time 
that they could not eat ! and it was 9 p.m. before they arrived at their camp 
at the foot of the Great Tower. In descending they followed the gallery 
above mentioned throughout its entire length, and so avoided the very diffi- 
cult rocks over which they had passed on the ascent. As they were travers- 
ing the length of the ' shoulder ' they witnessed the phenomenon to which I 
have already adverted at the foot of p. 400. 

When Carrel and Bich were near the summit they saw our traces upon 
the Matterhorngletscher, and suspected that an accident had occurred ; they 
did not, however, hear of the Matterhorn catastrophe until their return to 
Breil, at 3 p.m. upon the 1 8th. The details of that sad event were in the 
mouths of all, and it was not unnaturally supposed, in the absence of correct 
information, that the accident was a proof that the northern side was fright- 
fully dangerous. The safe return of the four Italians was regarded, on the 
other hand, as evidence that the Breil route was the best. Those who were 
interested (either personally or otherwise) in the Yal Tournanche made the 
most of the circumstances, and trumpeted the praises of the southern route. 
Some went farther, and instituted comparisons between the two routes to the 
disadvantage of the northern one, and were pleased to term our expedition on 
the 13-1 4th of July precipitate, and so forth. Considering the circumstances 
which caused us to leave the Val Tournanche on the 12th of July, these 
remarks were not in the best possible taste, but I have no feeling regarding 
them. There may be some, however, who may be interested in a comparison 
of the two routes, and for their sakes I will place the essential points in 
juxtaposition. We (that is the Taugwalders and myself) were absent from 
Zermatt 53 hours. Excluding halts and stoppages of one sort or another, the 
ascent and descent occupied us 23 hours. Zermatt is 5315 feet above the 
level of the sea, and the Matterhorn is 14,780 ; we had therefore to ascend 
9465 feet. As far as the point marked 10,820 feet the way was known, so 
we had to find the way over only 3960 feet. The members of our party (I 
now include all) were very unequal in ability, and none of us could for a 
moment be compared as cragsmen with Jean-Antoine Carrel. The four 
Italians who started from Breil on the 16th of July were absent during 56 \ 
* The words of the Abbe. I imagine that he meant comparatively easy. 

3 H 


hours, and as far as I can gather from the published account, and from con- 
versation with the men, excluding halts, they took for the ascent and descent 
23j hours. The hotel at Breil is 6890 feet above the sea, so they had to 
ascend 7890 feet. As far as the end of the ' shoulder ' the way was known 
to Carrel, and he had to find the way over only about 800 feet. All four 
men were born mountaineers, good climbers, and they were led by the most 
expert cragsman I have seen. The weather in each instance was fine. It is 
seen, therefore, that these four nearly equally matched men took a longer 
time to ascend 1500 feet less height than ourselves, although we had to find the 
way over more than four times as much untrodden ground as they. This 
alone would lead any mountaineer to suppose that their route must have been 
more difficult than ours.* I know the greater part of the ground over which 
they passed, and from my knowledge, and from the account of Mr. Grove, I 
am sure that their route was not only more difficult, but that it was much 
more difficult than ours. 

This was not the opinion in the Val Tournanche at the end of 1865, and 
the natives confidently reckoned that tourists would flock to their side in 
preference to the other. It was, I believe, the Canon Carrel of Aosta (who 
always takes great interest in such matters) who first proposed the construction 
of a cabane upon the southern side of the Matterhorn. The project was taken 
up with spirit, and funds for its execution were speedily provided — principally 
by the members of the Italian Alpine Club, or by their friends. The inde- 
fatigable Carrel found a natural hole upon the ledge called the l cravate ' 
(13,524), and this, in course of time, was turned, under his direction, into a 
respectable little hut. Its position is superb, and gives a view of the most 
magnificent character. 

Whilst this work was being carried out, my friend Mr. F. Craufurd Grove 
consulted me respecting the ascent of the Matterhorn. I recommended him 
to ascend by the northern route, and to place himself in the hands of Jean- 
Antoine Carrel. Mr. Grove found, however, that Carrel distinctly preferred 
the southern side, and they ascended accordingly by the Breil route. Mr. Grove 
has been good enough to supply the following account of his expedition. He 
carries on my description of the southern route from the highest point I 
attained on that side (a little below the ' cravate ') to the summit, and thus 
renders complete my descriptions of the two sides. 

"In August 1867 I ascended the Matterhorn from Breil, taking as guides 
three mountaineers of the Valtournanche — J. A. Carrel, J. Bich, and S. 
Meynet, — Carrel being the leader. At that time the Matterhorn had not 
been scaled since the famous expedition of the Italian guides mentioned 

" Our route was identical with that which they followed in their descent 
when, as will be seen, they struck out on one part of the mountain a different 
line from that which they had taken in ascending. After gaining the Col 
du Lion, we climbed the south-western or Breil arete by the route which has 
been described in these pages, passing the night at the then unfinished hut con- 

* The pace of a party is ruled by that of its least efficient member. 


structed by the Italian Alpine Club on the * cravate.' Starting from the 
hut at daylight, we reached at an early hour the summit of the ' shoulder,' 
and then traversed its arSte to the final peak of the Matterhorn. The passage 
of this arete was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the whole expedition. 
The ridge, worn by slow irregular decay into monstrous and rugged battle- 
ments, and guarded on each side by tremendous precipices, is grand beyond 
all description, but does not, strange to say, present any remarkable difficulty 
to the climber, save that it is exceedingly trying to the head. Great care is 
of course necessary, but the scramble is by no means of so arduous a nature as 
entirely to absorb the attention ; so that a fine climb, and rock scenery, of 
grandeur perhaps unparalleled in the Alps, can both be appreciated. 

" It was near the end of this arete, close to the place where it abuts against 
the final peak, that Professor Tyndall's party turned in 1862,* arrested by a 
cleft in the ridge. From the point where they stopped the main tower of the 
Matterhorn rises in front of the climber, abrupt, magnificent, and apparently 
inaccessible. The summit is fully 750 feet in vertical height above this 
spot, and certainly, to my eye, appeared to be separated from me by a yet 
more considerable interval ; for I remember, when at the end of the arete, 
looking upward at the crest of the mountain, and thinking that it must be a 
good 1000 feet above me. 

" When the Italian guides made their splendid ascent, they traversed the 
arete of the shoulder to the main peak, passed the cleft which has been men- 
tioned (p. 133), clambered on to the tremendous north-western face of the 
mountain (described by Mr. WhympeT? at pp. 388 and 393), and then en- 
deavoured to cross this face so as to get on to the Z'Mutt arete.f The passage of 
this slope proved a work of great difficulty and danger. I saw it from very 
near the place which they traversed, and was unable to conceive how any 
human creatures managed to crawl over rocks so steep and so treacherous. 
After they had got about half-way across, they found the difficulties of the 
route and the danger from falling stones so great, that they struck straight up 
the mountain, in the hope of finding some safer way. They were to a certain 
extent successful, for they came presently to a small ledge, caused by a sort 
of fault in the rock, running horizontally across the north-western face of the 
mountain a little distance below the summit. Traversing this ledge, the 
Italians found themselves close to the Z'Mutt arSte, but still separated from it 
by a barrier, to outflank which it was necessary to descend a perpendicular 
gully. Carrel and Bich were lowered down this, the other two men remaining 
at the top to haul up their companions on their return, as otherwise they could 
not have got up again. Passing on to the Z'Mutt arete without further diffi- 
culty, Carrel and Bich climbed by that ridge to the summit of the mountain. 
In returning, the Italians kept to the ledge for the whole distance across the 
north-western face, and descended to the place where the arSte of the shoulder 
abuts against the main peak by a sort of rough ridge of rocks between the 
north-western and southern faces. When I ascended in 1867, we followed this 
route in the ascent and in the descent. I thought the ledge difficult, in some 
places decidedly dangerous, and should not care to set foot on it again ; but 

* See pp. 126-9, and pp. 133-4. 
t A ridge descending towards the Z'Muttgletscher. 


assuredly it neither is so difficult nor so continuously dangerous as those gaunt 
and pitiless rock-slopes which the Italians crossed in their upward route. 

" The credit of making the Italian ascent of the Matterhorn belongs 
undoubtedly to J.- A. Carrel and to the other mountaineers who accompanied 
him. Bennen led his party bravely and skilfully to a point some 750 feet below 
the top. From this point, however, good guide though he was, Bennen had to 
retire defeated ; and it was reserved for the better mountain-craft of the Val- 
tournanche guide to win the difficult way to the summit of the Matterhorn." 

Mr. Craufurd Grove was the first traveller who ascended the Matterhorn 
after the accident, and the natives of Val Tournanche were, of course, greatly 
delighted that his ascent was made upon their side. Some of them, however, 
were by no means well pleased that J. -A. Carrel was so much regarded. They 
feared, perhaps, that he would acquire the monopoly of the mountain. Just 
a month after Mr. Grove's ascent, six Valtournanchians set out to see whether 
they could not learn the route, and so come in for a share of the good things 
which were expected to arrive. They were three Maquignaz's, Caesar Carrel 
(my old guide), J.-B. Carrel, and a daughter of the last named ! They left 
Breil at 5 a.m. on Sept. 1 2, and at 3 p.m. arrived at the hut, where they passed 
the night. At 7 a.m. the next day they started again (leaving J.-B. Carrel 
behind), and proceeded along the ' shoulder ' to the final peak ; passed the 
cleft which had stopped Bennen, and clambered up the comparatively easy 
rocks on the other side until they arrived at the base of the last precipice, 
down which we had hurled stones on July 14, 1865. They (young woman 
and all) were then about 350 feet from the summit ! Then, instead of 
turning to the left, as Carrel and Mr. Grove had done, Joseph and J.-Pierre 
Maquignaz paid attention to the cliff in front of them, and managed to find a 
means of passing up, by clefts, ledges, and gullies, to the summit. This was 
a shorter (and it appears to be an easier) route than that taken by Carrel and 
Grove, and it has been followed by all those who have since then ascended the 
mountain from the side of Breil.* Subsequently, a rope was fixed over the 
most difficult portions of the final climb. 

In the meantime they had not been idle upon the other side. A hut was 
constructed upon the eastern face, at a height of 12,526 feet above the sea, 
near to the crest of the ridge which descends towards Zermatt (north-east 
ridge). This was done at the expense of Monsieur Seiler and of the Swiss 
Alpine Club. Mons. Seiler placed the execution of the work under the direc- 
tion of the Knubels, of the village of St. Nicholas, in the Zermatt valley ; and 
Peter Knubel, along with Joseph Marie Lochmatter of the same village, had 
the honour of making the second ascent of the mountain upon the northern 
side with Mr. Elliott. This took place on July 24-25, 1868.t Since then 

* Joseph and J.-Pierre Maquignaz alone ascended ; the others had had enough and 
returned. It should be observed that ropes ha I been fixed, by J. -A. Carrel and others, 
over all the difficult parts of the mountain as high as the shoulder, before the ascent of 
these persons. This explains the facility with which they moved over ground which had 
been found very trying in earlier times. The young woman declared that the ascent (as 
far as she went) was a trifle, or used words to that effect ; if she had tried to get to the 
same height before 1862, she would probably have been of a different opinion. 

f It was supposed by Mr. Elliott that he avoided the place where the accident 


numerous ascents have been made, and of these the only one which calls for 
mention is that by Signor Giordano, on September 3-5, 1868. This gentle- 
man came to Breil several times after his famous visit in 1865, with the 
intention of making the ascent, but he was always baffled by weather. In July 
1866 he got as high as the ' cravate' (with J.- A. Carrel and other men), and 
was detained there Jive days and nights, tenable to move either up or doivn ! At 
last, upon the above-named date, he was able to gratify his desires, and 
accomplished the feat of ascending the mountain upon one side and descend- 
ing it upon the other. Signor Giordano is, I believe, the only geologist who 
has ascended the Matterhorn. He spent a considerable time in the examina- 
tion of its structure, and became benighted on its eastern face in consequence. 
I am indebted to him for the valuable note and the accompanying section 
which follow the Table of Ascents.* 

The two tables upon pp. 422-23 explain themselves. The first exhibits 
at a glance all the attempts which were made to ascend the Matterhorn before 
July 1865, whether by natives or whether by stranger-amateurs ; and the 
second, all of the ascents which have been actually made since that date. 
Besides these successes, there have been a large number of failures. I have 
been compelled to omit all mention of the latter, merely on account of their 
number. Great trouble has been taken to make the following tables accurate ; 
but it is, of course, possible that some names have been omitted which should 
have been inserted. 

The ascents have been equally divided between the two routes. The 
northern one still remains, I believe, just what it was in 1865, with the 
exception of the hut built upon the eastern face. The southern route, however, 
has been rendered very much easier by the ropes which have been placed over 
all the difficult places. It is another thing whether it is safer than it was. 
Unless a greater amount of supervision is given to these ropes than I expect 
will be given to them, and unless they are replaced from time to time by new 
ones, they will be likely to render it more, rather than less, hazardous. In 
difficulty, there is now probably little or no difference between the routes. 
Very poor climbers may make, and have made, the ascent. Novices, in my 
opinion, ought to be invariably deterred from attempting it, and if it ever 
becomes fashionable (like the ascent of Mont Blanc, for example), the most 
disastrous consequences may be anticipated. 

occurred on July 14, 1865, and improved the route. Others who have made the ascent by 
the northern route have thought the same ; but, as far as I can learn, there has not been any 
material deviation from the route we took over the small difficult part of the mountain ; and 
my information leads me to believe, that most of those who have ascended or descended 
the northern route have passed over the exact place where the accident occurred. 

* Signor Giordano carried a mercurial barometer throughout the entire distance, and 
read it frequently. His observations have enabled me to determine with confidence and 
accuracy the heights which were attained upon the different attempts to ascend the moun- 
tain, and the various points upon it which have been so frequently mentioned throughout 
this volume. He left a minimum thermometer upon the summit in 1868. This was 
recovered by J. -A. Carrel in July 1869, and was found to register only 9° Fahrenheit 
below the freezing point. It was supposed that it 'was protected from the winter cold by 
a deep covering of snow. The explanation is scarcely satisfactory. 





o <o 



Side upon which 

the attempt was 

made, and place 

arrived at. 







J.-Antoine Carrel. 

Breil side 


Several attempts were made be- 

J. -Jacques Carrel. 


fore this height was attained ; 

Victor Carrel. 

the men concerned cannot re- 
member how many. See p. 84. 

Gab. Maquignaz. 


Abbe Gorret. 



Alfred Parker. 
Charles Parker. 
Sandbach Parker. 

Zermatt side. 
East face. 

11,500 ? 

Without guides. P. 85. 


August . 

V. Hawkins. 

Breil side 


Guides — J. J. Bennen and J.- 

J. Tyndall. 

Hawkins got to 
foot of "Great 
Tower," Tyn- 
dall a few feet 

13,050 ? 

Jacques Carrel. Pp. 85-7. 





Messrs. Parker 

Zermatt side. 
East face. 

11,700 ? 

No guides. P. 87. 


Aug. 29 . 

J.-Antoine Carrel. 
J. -Jacques Carrel. 

Breil side 
" Crete du Coq." 


See p. 95. 


Aug. 29-30 

Edward Whymper . 

Breil side 


Camped upon the mountain, with 



an Oberland guide. Pp. 90-5. 


January . 

T. S. Kennedy 

Zermatt side. 
East face. 


Winter attempt. Pp. 96-7. 


July 7-8 . 

R. J. S. Macdonald. 

Breil side 


Guides — Johann zum Taugwald 

Edward Whymper. 

Arete below 
" Chimney." 

and Johann Kronig. Pp. 102-3. 


July 9-10 

R. J. S. Macdonald. 

Breil side 


Guides — J. -A. Carrel and Pession. 

Edward Whymper. 

"Great Tower." 

P. 104. 


July 18-19 

»j >> 

Breil side 

Somewhat higher 
than the lowest 
part of the 


Alone. Pp. 105-119. 


July 23-24 

55 55 

Breil side 
" Crete du Coq." 


Guides — J. -A. Carrel, Csesar Car- 
rel, and Luc Meynet. P. 123. 


July 25-26 

55 55 

Breil side 

Nearly as high 
as the highest 
part of the 


With Luc Meynet. Pp. 125-6. 


July 27-28 

J. Tyndall . 

Breil side 
"The Shoulder," 
to foot of final 


Guides — J. J. Bennen and Anton 
Walter ; porters — J.-Antoine Car- 
rel, Caesar Carrel, and another. 



Pp. 126-9, 133-4. 


Aug. 10-11 

Edward Whymper . 

Breil side 
"Crete du Coq." 


Guides — J. -A. Carrel, Csesar Car- 
rel, Luc Meynet, and two porters. 
Pp. 169-176. 


June 21 . 

55 55 

South-east face 

11,200 ? 

Guides — Michel Croz, Christian 
Aimer, Franz Biener ; porter- 
Luc Meynet. Pp. 290-3. 





No. of 







July 13-15 

July 16-18 

Aug. 13-15 

Sept. 12-14 

Oct. 1-3 

July 24-25 

July 26-28 

Aug. 2-4 

Aug. 3-4 
Aug. 8* 
Sept. 1-2 

Sept. 2-3 
Sept. 3-5 

Sept. 8-9 . 

July 20 . 

Aug. 26-27 

July 20 (?) 


Lord Francis Douglas. 
D. Hadow. 
Charles Hudson. 
Edward Whymper. 

Jean-Antoine Carrel. 
J. Baptiste Bich. 
Ame Gorret. 
J.-Augustin Meynet 

F. Craufurd Grove . 

Jos. Maquignaz. 
J. -Pierre Maquignaz. 
Victor Maquignaz. 
Caesar Carrel. 
J.-B. Carrel.. 

W. Leighton Jordan 

J. M. Elliott 
J. Tyndall 

0. Hoiler. 
F. Thioly. 

G. E. Foster . 
Paul Guessfeldt 

A. G. Girdlestone. 

F. Craufurd Grove. 
W. E. U. Kelso. 

G. B. Marke . 
F. Giordano . 

Paul Sauzet . 

James Eccles . 
R. B. Heathcote 

Route taken. 

Zermatt . 
(Or Northern 

Breil . 
(Or Southern 




Up Breil side 
and down Zer- 
matt side. 

Seem to have as- 
cended from 
Zermatt and 
descended to 



Ascended Breil 
side and de- 
scended to Zer- 

Breil . 

Breil . 
Breil . 



Guides — Michel Croz, Peter Taugwalder 
pere, Peter Taugwalder fils. See pp. 384- 

The first two named only ascended to the 
summit. See pp. 393, 416-7. 

Guides — J.-A. Carrel, Salamon Meynet, 
and J. B. Bich. 

An easier route was discovered by this 
party than that taken upon July 17, 1865. 
The first two named only ascended to the 

Guides — the three Maquignaz's just named, 
Caesar Carrel, and F. Ansermin. The 
Maquignaz's and Mr. Jordan alone reached 
the summit. 

Guides — Jos. Marie Lochmatter and Peter 

Guides — Jos. and Pierre Maquignaz, and 
three others. 

Account given in hotel-book at Breil is 
not very clear. Guides seem to have 
been Jos. and Victor Maquignaz and 
Elie Pession. 

Guides — Hans Baumann, Peter Bernett, 
and Peter Knubel. 

Guides — Jos. Marie Lochmatter, Nich. 
Knubel, and Peter Knubel. 

Guides — Jos. Marie Lochmatter and the 
two Knubels. 

Guides — Nich. Knubel and Pierre Zur- 
briggen (Saas). 

Guides — J.-A. Carrel and Jos. Maquignaz. 

Guides — J.-A. Carrel and Jos. Maquignaz. 

Guides — J.-A. Carrel, Bich, and two Payots 

Guides — the four Maquignaz's (Val Tour- 

One ascent only was made in 1870. No 
details have come to hand. 

* Although one day only is named for this and for a subsequent ascent, I have reason to believe 
that two or more days have "been occupied upon all ascents which have, as yet, been made. 


H. Courte Note sur la G£ologie du Matterhorn. Par Signor 
F. Giordano, Ingenieur en Chef des Mines d'ltalie, etc. etc. 

Le Matterhorn ou Mont Cervin est forme depuis la base jusqu'au sommet 
de roches stratifiees en bancs assez reguliers, qui sont tous legerement releves 
vers l'Est, savoir vers le Mont Kose. Ces roches quoiqn'evidemment d'origine 
sedimentable ont nne structure fortement cristalline qui doit etre Feffet d'une 
puissante action de metamorphisme tres-developpee dans cette region des 
Alpes. Dans la serie des roches constituantes du Mont Cervin Ton peut faire 
une distinction assez marquee, savoir celles formant la base inferieure de la 
montagne, et celles formant le pic proprement dit. 

Les roches de la base qu'on voit dans le Yal Tournanche, dans le vallon 
de Z'Mutt, au col de Theodule et ailleurs, sont en general des schistes talqueux, 
serpentineux, chloriteux, et amphiboliques, alternant fort souvent avec des 
schistes calcaires a noyeaux quartzeux. Ces schistes calcaires de couleur 
brunatre alternent ca et la avec des dolomies, des cargueules, et des quartzites 
tegulaires. Cette formation calcareo-serpentineuse est tres etendue dans les 
environs. Le pic au contraire est tout forme d'un gneiss talqueux, "souvent a 
gros elements, alternant parfois a quelques bancs de schistes talqueux et 
quartzeux, mais sans bancs calcaires. Vers le pied ouest du pic, le gneiss est 
remplace par de l'euphotide granitoide massive, qui semble y former une grosse 
lentille se fondant de tous cotes dans le gneiss meme. Du reste les roches du 
Cervin montrent partout des exemples fort instructifs de passages graduels 
d'une structure a l'autre, resultant du metamorphisme plus ou moins avance. 

Le pic actuel n'est que le reste d'une puissante formation geologique 
ancienne, triasique peut-etre, dont les couches puissantes de plus de 3500 
metres enveloppaient tout autour comme un immense manteau le grand massif 
granitoide et feldspathique du Mont Rose. Aussi son etude detaillee, qui par 
exception est rendue fort facile par la profondeur des vallons d'ou il surgit, 
donne la clef de la structure geologique de beaucoup d'autres montagnes des 
environs. On y voit partout le phenomene assez curieux d'une puissante 
formation talqueuse tres-cristalline,presque granitoide, regulierement superposee 
a une formation schisteuse et calcarifere. Cette meme constitution geologique 
est en partie la cause de la forme aigue et de l'isolement du pic qui en font la 
merveille des voyageurs. En effet, tandis que les roches feuilletees de la base 
etant facilement corrodees par Taction des meteores et de l'eau ont ete facile- 
ment creusees en vallees larges et profondes, la roche superieure qui constitue 
la pyramide donne lieu par sa durete a des fendillements formant des parois 
escarpees qui conservent au pic ce profil elance et caracteristique alpin. Les 
glaciers qui entourent son pied de tous les cotes en emportant d'une maniere 
continue les debris tombant de ses flancs, contribuent pour leur part a main- 
tenir cet isolement de la merveilleuse pyramide qui sans eux serait peut-etre 
deja ensevelie sous ses propres mines. 



14780 SUMMIT 






11844 COL DU LION 





References to the Geological Section of the Matterhorn. 

I. Gneiss talqueux quartzifere. Beaucoup de traces de foudres. 
II. Banc de 3 a 4 metres de scliistes serpentinenx et talqueux verts. 

III. Gneiss talqueux a elements plus ou moms schisteux, avec quelque lit 

de quartzite. 
„ Gneiss et micaschistes ferrugineux a elements tres-fins, beaucoivp de 
traces de foudre. 

IV. Gneiss alternant avec des schistes talqueux et a des felsites en zones 

blanches et grises. 
V. Petite couche de schistes serpentineux, vert sombre. 
VI. Gneiss et micaschiste avec zones quartziferes rubanees. 
VII. Gneiss talqueux a elements schisteux. 

VIII. Id. id. verdatre, porphyroide a elements moyens. 
IX. Gneiss talqueux granitoide a gros elements et avec des cristaux de 

X. Schistes grisatres. 
XL Micaschistes ferrugineux. 
XII. Gneiss talqueux vert sombre. 

XIII. Gneiss et schistes quartzeux, couleur vert clair. 

XIV. Euphotide massive (feldspath et diallage) a elements cristallins bien 

developpes, traversee par des veines d'eurite blanchatre. Cette roche 
forme im banc ou plutot une lentille de plus de 500 metres de 
puissance intercalee au gneiss talqueux* 
XV. Gneiss talqueux alternant avec des schistes talqueux et micaces. 
XVI. Schistes compactes couleur vert clair. 
XVII. Calcaire cristallin micace (calcschiste) avec veines et rognons de quartz. 

II alterne avec des schistes verts chloriteux et serpentineux. 
XVIII. Schistes verts chloriteux, serpentineux et talqueux, avec des masses 
XIX. Calcschistes (comme ci-dessus) formant un banc de plus de 100 

XX. Schistes verts chloriteux. 
XXI. Calcschistes (comme ci-dessus). 

XXII. II suit ci dessous line serie fort puissante de schistes verts serpen- 
tineux, chloriteux, talqueux et steatiteux alternant encore avec des 
calcschistes. En plusieurs localites les schistes deviennent tres- 
amphibologiques a petits cristaux noirs. Cette puissante formation 
calcareo-serpentineuse repose inferieurement sur des micaschistes 
et des gneiss anciens. 

* Cette roche granitoide parait surtout a la base ouest du pic sous le col du Lion tandis 
qu'elle ne parait pas du tout sur le flanc est ou elle parait passer au gneiss talqueux. 

*t* En plusieurs localites des environs, cette zone calcarifere presente des bancs et des 
lentilles de dolomie, de cargueule de gypse et de quartzites. 

'6 i 


■ I. Stratification of Snow and Formation of Glacier-Ice. 

In the spring of 1866, the late Principal J. D. Forbes urged me to 
endeavour to find out more about the ' veined structure ' of glaciers, which he 
then, and, I believe, until his death considered, was very much in want of 
elucidation. After thinking the subject over, it seemed to me that its diffi- 
culties were so considerable that it would be useless to attempt to grapple 
with them except in a thorough manner, and that it would be necessary to 
scrutinise and to follow out the gradual transition of snow into glacier-ice, 
from beginning to end, in at least one glacier. Superficial examination was 
almost worthless, for it was well known that the veined structure, or 
structures, existed in glacier-ice above the snow-line ; and hence it appeared 
that the only effectual procedure would be to sink a number of pits or 
trenches through the superincumbent snow, commencing at the very birth- 
place of the glacier, and watching its growth and structural development as it 
descended to the lower regions. This opinion I still entertain. 

I left England at the end of July, with the intention of sinking several 
pits in the Stock glacier, which descends towards the north-east from the 
Col de Valpelline.* In the first instance it was desirable that a trench 
should be made in some position that was free from local interference, and in 
this respect the Col de Valpelline was an excellent station. It was a snowy 
plateau — almost a plain (without any protruding ridges or rocks) — which 
gave birth to two great glaciers — one (the Stock glacier) descending gently 
towards the north-east, the second (the Valpelline glacier) falling away rather 
more rapidly to the south-west. Wretched weather and miserable workmen 
retarded the work, and only one pit was sunk in the time at my disposal. 
This was a little more than 22 feet in depth ; and, although it threw scarcely 
any light upon the veined structure, it yielded some information respecting 
stratification of snow and the formation of glacier-ice. I will describe, first of 
all, how the work was done ; and secondly, what we observed. 

I arrived at Zermatt on the 30th of July, possessed of a pickaxe (one 
end of the head pointed and the other adze-shaped) and a couple of shovels ; 
engaged three common peasants as labourers, and Franz Biener as guide, and 
waited some days for the weather to improve. On the afternoon of August 2 
we started, and camped on the rocks of the Stockje,t at a height of about 
9000 feet. It was a very gusty night, and snow fell heavily. Great 
avalanches poured down incessantly from the surrounding slopes into the 
basin of the Tiefenmatten glacier, and minor ones from the slopes of our 
tent. We left our camp at 9.20 a.m. on the 3d, and proceeded to the 
summit of the Col (11,650) against a bitterly cold wind, and with the clouds 
embracing everything. I marked out a place for excavation, immediately at 
the summit of the pass, J 24 feet long by 5 wide, and the men soon threw out 
enough snow to protect themselves from the wind. Two walls of the pit 

* See map of the Valpelline, etc. 

t Marked on the map of Matterhorn and its glaciers, Camp (1866). 
X The pit was made about mid-way between the Tete Blanche and the nameless point 
marked on the Dufour map 3813 metres. 

appendix. EXCAVATION- ON THE COL. 427 

were dressed tolerably smooth, a third was left rough, and the fourth was 
occupied by an inclined plane that led from the surface to the workers. 
Two men were always at work ; one hewing with the pick, and the other 
throwing out with the shovel. The others rested, and relieved the workers 
about every fifteen minutes. For seven or eight feet down they got along 
rapidly, as the stuff could be thrown out ; but after a time the progress be- 
came much slower, for the snow had to be carried out in baskets. 

After 5 hours' exposure to the wind and drifting snow I was half frozen, 
and in a much worse state than the men, who kept themselves alive by their 
work. All our faces were massed with icicles. At length I beat a retreat, 
and descended to the tent with Biener. The mists were so dense that we 
dared not use either veils or spectacles, and I was snow-blind in consequence 
for two days afterwards. On the morning of the 4th my eyelids refused 
to open, and the light was painful even when they were closed. The men 
started off at 6.45, leaving me with my head tied up in a handkerchief, unable 
to eat or even to smoke ! Biener came back at 4.30 p.m. and reported that the 
snow seemed to be getting softer rather than harder the farther they descended. 
On the 5th (Sunday) my condition was slightly improved, and on Monday 
morning I was able to make a start, and ascended to the Col to see what 
the labourers had done in my absence. They certainly had not overworked 
themselves ; for while on the first day they had got down more than 9 feet 
in 5 hours, they had, during the time I had been away, only accomplished 
4 feet more. They said that on Sunday night 3 feet of snow had drifted 
into the pit, and almost as much on Friday night. This, of course, had con- 
siderably added to the work. They were extremely anxious to get away ; 
which was not surprising, as the wind was blowing ferociously from the 
north-west, and was tearing away sheets of snow from the summit of the 
pass. It was impossible to stand against it, and in a single hour we should 
have been all frozen if we had remained upon the surface. I told them 
(rather jesuitically) that they had only to reach glacier, and the work would 
be over at that spot. This consoled them, and they promised to work hard 
during our absence. 

Biener and I passed the night of the 6th at Prerayen, and upon the 7th we 
went down the Valpelline to Biona upon other business. On the 8th we re- 
turned to the summit of the Col, and found all three men sitting on the 
nearest rocks smoking their pipes. They admitted that they had done 
nothing on that day, but excused themselves by saying that they had got down 
to glacier. I found that the wretches had only gone down another foot during 
our thirty-six hours' absence. My wrath, however, was somewhat appeased 
when I went down into the pit. They had struck a layer of ice of much 
greater thickness than any which had been previously met with. It extended 
all round the floor of the pit to a depth of 6^ inches. The men went to work 
again, and soon reached another stratum of ice of formidable thickness ; or, 
rather, three layers which were barely separated from each other. After this, 
the snow seemed to be no denser than it was above the great layer. I waited 
some time ; but my eyes were still very weak, and could not be exposed for 
many minutes together, so at length Biener and I went down to Zermatt 
through a terrific thunderstorm and very heavy rain. 


On the 9th we returned again to the Col, and whilst climbing the rocks 
of the Stockje, discovered the dead chamois which was mentioned upon p. 
156. It rained as far as our camp, and thenceforward we had to fight our way 
up through continuously falling snow, against an easterly gale. It blew dead 
in our teeth, and our progress was painfully slow. The snow was writhing 
all around, as if tormented ; or caught by whirlwinds, and sent eddying high 
aloft ; or seized by gusts and borne onwards in clouds which seemed to be 
driven right through us. The wind was appalling ; once I was fairly blown 
down, although tied to Biener, and many times we were sent staggering back 
for ten or a dozen paces against our will. Our track was obliterated at the 
summit, and we could not find the pit. We tried east, west, north, and 
south, to no purpose. At last we heard a shout ! We halted, panting for 
breath. Another ! It came with the wind, and we had to face the storm 
again. After a long search we arrived at the pit, which by this time was a 
huge hole twenty feet deep. The inclined plane had had to be abandoned, and 
a regular staircase led down to the bottom. The men had again struck work, 
having, they said, arrived at glacier ; the fact was, they were completely 
cowed by the weather, and had taken to shouting, expecting that we should be 
lost. I descended, and with two strokes of the pick went through their 
glacier, which was only another thick stratum of ice. 

The last day had arrived, and the next was to see me en route for London. 
I drove the men to their work, and stood over them once more. The stuff 
which came up in the baskets was different to that which I had seen last ! It 
was not ice of a compact kind like the horizontal layers, still it was not snow. 
Sometimes one could say, This is snow ; but at others no one would have said 
that it was snow. On inquiry, they said that it had been like this for several 
feet. I went down, took the tools in my own hands, and hewed the walls 
smooth. It was then apparent that vertical glacification (if I may be per- 
mitted to use such an expression) had commenced (see A A on section). 

The men were anxious to leave, for the weather was terrible. The wind 
howled over our heads in a true hurricane. I was unwilling to go until it 
was absolutely necessary. At length they refused to work any longer ; I con- 
cluded the measurements ; we tied in line, and floundered downwards, and at 
9 p.m. arrived at Zermatt. 

I will now proceed to describe what we saw.* For 1 1 inches from the 
surface the snow was soft and white, or what is usually termed new snow. 
There was then a very decided increase in density, and all the snow beneath 
had a slight bluish tint.f At 21 inches from the surface the tone of the 
snow seemed somewhat deeper than that which was above, but below this 
point there was little or no increase in colour until the depth of 1 5 feet was 
passed. The density of the snow naturally increased as we descended, 
although much less rapidly than I expected. Down to the depth of 13j feet 
(or to just above the broad blue band on the right-hand column of the 
section) the mass was decidedly and unmistakably snowy ; that is to say, 

* The reader is now referred to the section- at the end of the volume, drawn to a 
scale of one inch to a foot from actual measurement. 

t Compared with the 11 inches of snow at the surface, that beneath seemed dirty. 
I hesitate, however, to term it dirty. We did not anywhere detect grit or sand. 



lumps could readily be compressed between the hands. This was also the 
case in some places belotv the depth of 15 feet. For example, at B B, on the 
section, the snow was not perceptibly denser than it was six or eight feet 
higher up. In other places, A A, it could not be termed snowy ; it could 
not be readily compressed in the hands ; and it looked and felt like an im- 
perfect or wet and spongy form of ice. The colour at B B was perceptibly 
stronger than at A A, but it should be said that the colour here, and of the 
horizontal strata of ice, has been intentionally exaggerated upon the section 
for the sake of clearness. 

The entire mass was pervaded with horizontal strata of pure ice. In the 
22 feet that we penetrated there were 75 such layers, varying from one-tenth 
of an inch in thickness to 6^ inches, which amounted in the aggregate to 25|- of solid ice. These strata were parallel to the surface of the snow, 
and to each other. Not perfectly so ; sometimes they approached, and some- 
times receded from each other. Neither was their substance (thickness) 
constant. In some places they were more, and in others less thick. 
For example, the stratum which is between the brackets marked 1863-4 1 
and 1864-5 1 was in some places an inch and a half thick, but in others 
scarcely an eighth of an inch. Upon the whole, the stouter strata were con- 
tinued completely round the sides of the pit, and were tolerably uniform in 
thickness. The finer strata, on the other hand, frequently died out in short 
distances, and seldom or never could be traced completely round the walls. 
The finer strata also were much more numerous towards the surface than 
towards the bottom of the pit, and they were readily obscured by the drifting 
snow. It was obvious, yet important to observe, that the strata or layers of 
pure ice became fewer in number as one descended, and that they constantly, 
although not regularly, became thicker. 

I attempted to gain an idea of the temperature of the snow at different 
depths, but I do not care to quote my readings, as they were, without a 
doubt, falsified by the wind. I am not sure, moreover, that it is possible 
under any circumstances to obtain correct readings of snow temperature in 
the way that they were taken. The recorded temperatures, anyhow, must 
have been influenced by the surrounding air. If they were correct they 
proved that the lower strata were warmer than the upper ones. 

We must now quit the region of facts, and descend to that of surmises 
and conjectures. The differences in the quality and in the tone of the snow 
of the first three feet below the surface were sufficiently marked to suggest 
that we saw in them snow belonging to three different years. The unanimous 
opinion of the four men was, that the uppermost 11 inches belonged to 
1865-6, the next 10 inches to 1864-5, and the next 16 inches to 1863-4. 
In this matter they were not, perhaps, altogether incompetent judges. I am 
doubtful, however, whether their opinion was correct, and incline to the idea 
that the uppermost 11 inches had fallen during the summer of 1866, and that 
the succeeding 10 inches may have been all that remained of the preceding 
winter's snow. Whatever surprise may be felt at so small a depth being 
considered as representing a year's fall, must be modified when it is remem- 
bered that the position at which the pit was sunk could scarcely have been 
more exposed. We had evidence that a mere fraction only of the snow that 


fell remained in situ — the wind tore it away in sheets and streams. It will 
be remembered, too, that no inconsiderable amount passes off by evaporation. 
If other pits had been sunk to the north and to the south of the pass, Ave 
should probably have found in them a greater dejjth of snow between each 
of the horizontal layers of pure ice. This is mere conjecture, and it may be 
taken for what it is worth. It is more important to note — 1. (a) That the 
fine layers or strata of pure ice were numerous towards the surface ; (7>) disap- 
peared as we descended ; (c) and that the lower strata were, upon the whole, 
much thicker than those towards the surface. 2. That the thickness of these 
strata of pure ice amounted to nearly one-tenth of the mass that we were 
able to penetrate. 3. That, below the depth of 15 feet, vertical glacification 
began to show itself. Upon each of these subjects I will now venture to 
offer a few remarks. 

1 (a.) The fine horizontal layers or strata of pure ice were numerous towards 
the surface. All of these layers had been formed by weathering at the surface. 
It is usual, even during the winter, for considerable periods of fine weather 
to succeed heavy snow-falls ; and in these periods the surface of the snow is 
alternately melted and refrozen, and, at length, is glazed with a crust or film 
of pure ice. This, when covered up by another snow-fall, and exposed as in 
the section, appears as a bluish horizontal line drawn through the whiter 
mass. The snow between any two of these layers (near the surface) did not 
therefore represent a year's snow, but it was the remnant, and only the rem- 
nant, of a considerable fall, between whose deposition, and that of the 
next stratum above, a considerable interval of time had probably elapsed. 

(b.) The fine strata disappeared as we descended. I imagine that this was a 
result of pressure from the superincumbent mass, but I leave to others to show 
the exact manner in which these finer strata were got rid of. Is it possible to 
liquefy by steady pressure a plate of ice (say, one-tenth of an inch in thickness) 
placed in the interior of a mass of snow, without liquefaction of the snow ? 

(c.) The lower strata of pure ice were, upon the whole, thicker than those 
towards the surface. This, doubtless, was a result of vertical pressure. The 
strata grew under pressure. But why should some grow and others dis- 
appear ? I presume that the finest ones disappear, and that the stouter ones 
grow. Can it be shown experimentally that it is possible to liquefy by 
steady pressure a fine plate of ice placed in the interior of a mass of snow, 
and at the same time, under the same conditions, to thicken another and 
stouter plate of ice ? 

2 . These horizontal strata of pure ice amounted in the aggregate to nearly 
one-tenth of the thickness of the mass that we penetrated. It was perfectly well 
known prior to 1866 that the upper snows (which give birth to glaciers) were 
pervaded with strata of pure ice, and a host of observers had written before 
that date upon stratification of snow and of glacier. It may be questioned, 
however, whether any had an idea of the very important amount of glacifica- 
tion that is effected by superficial weathering, and subsequent thickening of 
the strata through vertical pressure. A search through the works of the 
principal writers on glaciers has failed to show me that any person imagined 
that one-tenth of the mass, or anything like that amount, was composed of 
strata of pure ice. 



There are two points in regard to these horizontal strata of pure ice that 
are worthy of consideration : — (a) Does not their existence, and especially the 
existence of the fine layers towards the surface, conclusively disprove the idea 
that the production of glacier-ice is greatly promoted by infiltration of water 
from the surface 1 (b) Can these numerous strata of pure ice (some of which are 
of such considerable thickness, and extending over large areas) be obliterated 
in the subsequent progress of the glacier ? If so, how are they obliterated ? 
Or is it not reasonable to suppose that these thick strata of solid ice must con- 
tinue to exist, must continue to thicken under pressure, and must supply many 
of those plates of pure ice which are seen in the imperfect ice of the glacier, 
and which have been referred to at different times and by various persons as 
the e veined structure ? ' 

3. Below the depth of lb feet the appearances which I have ventured to term 
vertical glacijication were first noticed. Were they accidental ? or will they be 
found at or about the same depth in all other places 1 Into what would 
those appearances have developed at a greater depth ? What produced them ? 
These questions may perhaps be answered one day by future investigators. 
I cannot answer them except by guesses or conjectures. Most unwillingly I 
left the excavation just at the time when it promised to yield more valuable 
information than it had done previously ; and since then I have never been 
able to resume the work. I believe that the exposure of considerable sections 
of the interior of a glacier, at different parts of its course, would yield infor- 
mation of extreme interest ; and that more light would be thrown in such 
way upon the doubts and difficulties which attend the formation of glacier-ice 
and the ' veined structure,' than will ever be thrown upon those vexed subjects 
by idle wandering upon the surface of glaciers and by peering into crevasses. 

J. Denudation in the Valley of the Durance. 

In the summer of 1869, whilst walking up the Valley of the Durance 
from Mont Dauphin to Briancon, I noticed, when about five kilometres from 
the latter place, some pinnacles on the mountain-slopes to the west of the 
road. I scrambled up, and found the remarkable natural pillars which are 
represented in the annexed engraving* They were formed out of an 
unstratified conglomerate of gritty earth, boulders, and stones. Some of 
them were more thickly studded with stones than a plum-pudding usually is 
with plums, whilst from others the stones projected like the spines from an 
echinoderm. The earth (or mud) was extremely hard and tenacious, and the 
stones, embedded in it, were extricated with considerable difficulty. The 
mud adhered very firmly to the stones that were got out, but it was readily 
washed away in a little stream near at hand. In a few minutes I extracted 
fragments of syenite, mica-schist, several kinds of limestone and conglomerates, 

* They were 750 feet (by aneroid) above the road, and were not far from the village 
of Sachas. There were a dozen of about the size of those shown in the engraving, and 
also numerous stumps of other minor ones. There may have been more, and more con- 
siderable ones, farther behind. I was pressed for time, and could not proceed beyond the 
point shown in the illustration. I have thought the above imperfect account of these 
pinnacles worth recording, as I believe they have never been described or observed 


and some fossil plants characteristic of carboniferous strata. Most of the 
fragments were covered with scratches, which told that they had travelled 
underneath a glacier. The mud had all the character of glacier-mud, and 
the hill-side was covered with drift. From these indications, and from the 
situation of the pinnacles, I concluded that they had been formed out of an 
old moraine. The greatest of them were 60 to 70 feet high, and the 
moraine had therefore been at least that height. I judged from appearances 
that the moraine was a frontal-terminal one of a glacier which had been an 
affluent of the great glacier that formerly occupied the Valley of the Durance, 
and which, during retrogression, had made a stand upon this hill-side near 
Sachas. This lateral glacier had flowed down a nameless vallon which 
descends towards the E.S.E. from the mountain called upon the French 
Government map Sommet de l'Eychouda (8740). 

Only one of all the pinnacles that I saw was capped by a stone (a small 
one), and I did not notice any boulders lying in their immediate vicinity of a 
size sufficient to account for their production in the manner of the celebrated 
pillars near Botzen. The readers of Sir Charles Lyell's Principles (10th ed. 
vol. i. p. 338) will remember that he attributes the formation of the Botzen 
pillars chiefly to the protection which boulders have afforded to the under- 
lying matter from the direct action of rain. This is no doubt correct — the 
Botzen pinnacles are mostly capped by boulders of considerable dimensions. 
In the present instance this does not appear to have been exactly the case. 
Running water has cut the moraine into ridges (shown upon the right hand 
of the engraving), and has evidently assisted in the work of denudation. 
The group of pinnacles here figured, belonged, in all probability, to a ridge 
which had been formed in this way, whose crest, in course of time, became 
sharp, perhaps attenuated. In such a condition, very small stones upon 
the crest of the ridge would originate little pinnacles ; whether these would 
develop into larger ones, would depend upon the quantity of stones embedded 
in the surrounding moraine-matter. I imagine that the largest of the Sachas 
pinnacles owe their existence to the portions of the moraine out of which 
they are formed having been studded with a greater quantity of stones and 
small boulders than the portions of the moraine which formerly filled the 
gaps between them ; and, of course, primarily, to the facts that glacier-mud is 
extremely tenacious when dry, and is readily washed away. Thus, the present 
form of the pinnacles is chiefly due to the direct action of rain, but their pro- 
duction was assisted, in the first instance, by the action of running water. 

Printed by "&. Clark, Edinburgh. 


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